Wichita residents can feel good, police officials say, about the city recording one of its lowest homicide totals in a decade last year: 16.
But a different number gnaws at the detectives and leaders in the department’s homicide unit: 4.
That’s how many of last year’s killings remain unsolved.
• James Gary Jr., 27, was shot to death during a fight outside a warehouse early on the morning of July 14.
• Lemmie Alford, 25, was shot in the street next to the intersection of 15th and Green on July 24.
• Kolby Hopkins, 25, was fatally wounded in the 100 block of North Rock Island when someone opened fire in an Old Town parking lot early on the morning of Sept. 22.
• Damon Williams, 47, was shot in a parking lot in the 4400 block of East Harry, later crashed his car and died on Oct. 29.
Answers in each of those cases remain stubbornly elusive, Lt. Todd Ojile said.
“It’s very frustrating,” Ojile said. “These detectives put in hundreds of hours on these cases.
“We know someone out there holds the key to solving these cases. Either we haven’t found them, or they haven’t given us the information we need on them.”
Investigations into each of the unsolved homicides remain active, Ojile said.
“They’re being continually worked,” he said. “Detectives are looking into any and all aspects on them.”
Two of the four homicides are gang-related, Ojile said. In the other two, gang members were involved.
Gary and Hopkins were shot in the midst of large crowds, he said.
“We do believe there are people out there who saw” what happened, Ojile said. “We either haven’t found those people yet, or they’re just not telling us the information that they have.
“We don’t know what’s holding them back,” he said. “We’d love to talk to them. We’d love to get their information.”
It’s not just about bringing the shooters to justice, he said, it’s about helping families of the victims get some closure.
As things stand now, Aaron “A.J.” Bohannon said, closure isn’t possible for the friends and families of those whose killings remain unsolved.
“It’s almost impossible to start the healing process until you know who’s responsible for it,” said Bohannon, who said he was with Hopkins in Old Town when he was shot to death.
“It’s disheartening, really, to lose somebody that close to you and for somebody not to be held responsible for that,” he said.
Adding that to the pain of realizing you’ll never see your friend again is “heart-breaking,” he said. “It’s heart-wrenching.”
Even though all four unsolved homicides have connections to gangs, Ojile said, he doesn’t blame the gang culture for the absence of the information needed to solve the cases. It’s more a reflection of society in general, he said.
“I think sometimes people are scared to get involved,” he said. “They don’t know what it entails, and they’re scared to get involved.”
That’s what makes information-sharing avenues such as Crime Stoppers so valuable, he said. People can share what they know while remaining anonymous.
Tips can be submitted via Crime Stoppers by calling 316-267-2111, by going online at www.wichitacrimestoppers.com or by text message to CRIMES – 274637 – and beginning the message with TIP217.
In the wake of Hopkins’ death, Crime Stoppers increased its maximum reward for tips that lead to arrests from $1,000 to $2,500.