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Peoria Police Cracking Down After 100 Shots Fired At 'Roving Street Party' Gone Badly Awry

Tim Shelley
Peoria Police Chief Loren Marion III holds a news conference at the Peoria Police Department Monday, July 20, 2020, after 13 people were shot early Sunday morning on the riverfront.

Police say a "roving street party" is to blame for a shooting on Peoria's Riverfront that left 13 people injured early Sunday morning.

Police Chief Loren Marion III said police broke up the gathering of around 200 people several times at two different locations before the violent Riverfront incident.

The first call came in around 12:45 a.m. Sunday about a large group gathered at the Shell gas station on MacArthur Highway where a fight broke out. Officers dispersed the group.

Marion said the group moved to the 200 block of NE Water Street, where another fight was called in around 1:30 a.m. Police were called to the Shell station on MacArthur again 15 minutes later with the same group causing a disruption.

Police were called just after 4 a.m. when the group returned to the Shell station a third time.

Around 4:45 a.m., police were called back to Water Street as another fight erupted into gunfire. Thirteen people were injured. None of the injuries are considered life-threatening.

"This cannot be tolerated because, you have a hundred shell casings recovered with a group of 200 people down there? We're fortunate that (only) 13 people got hit, and I feel bad for the individuals that got shot, but it could have been a lot worse," Marion said at a news conference on Monday.

Multiple shooters are suspected, based on the different calibers of shell casings found at the scene.

Marion said police have been dealing with "roving street parties" for a while now. A similar incident happened on Water Street last summer.

The parties are coordinated on social media. Marion said they arrange to meet up at prearranged locations on public or private property. The partygoers usually listen to music, drink alcohol, and hang out, but the parties have a tendency to devolve into fights, he said.

"It is unacceptable to condone all the fighting that ends up leading into gun violence and shots being fired. And then we end up with what we had this past weekend," he said. "So it's not as simple as people wanting to go out and party at a location."

The chief declined to go into specific police strategies in response to a similar situation moving forward, but he said he will put additional resources toward cracking down on the "roving street parties."

Marion said he's also working with other downstate police departments experiencing similar problems. He declined to name those departments.

Credit Tim Shelley / WCBU
Tim Shelley / WCBU
Peoria First District Councilwoman Denise Moore speaks at a press conference regarding the Sunday morning violence in her district along the riverfront.

First District Councilwoman Denise Moore said the residents of her district, which includes downtown, are fed up with the violence. She called for accountability, but said that responsibility doesn't just fall on the police or business owners--it falls on everyone.

"We need to have all of our community together. This is more than just someone getting the spotlight and somebody's name being out front. It's not about that. We are way beyond that," Moore said. "If we don't come together as one community, we will fall as one community."

Moore urged the community not to paint all 200 people gathered with a broad brush with responsibility for the violence. But she said those who know people attending the parties should reach out.

"If we have cousins, and sisters and brothers, and nieces and nephews, and children, who you know are out at this time of night, let them know how concerned you are about their safety. We want them to come home alive. We want to make sure that their children see them as adults," she said.

Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis noted the party was dangerous on "many levels" in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"In addition to exceeding the governor's executive order of 50 people, there was little to no personal protective equipment seen in any of the videos available," he said. "There are many residential areas within close walking distance of this area of our riverfront. This activity would not be allowed in any other part of our community, and it won't continue there."

The Peoria area has experienced a spike in new COVID-19 cases in recent days, with officials recently sounding alarm bells on the region's precarious standing. 

Andre Allen, chairman of the city's Advisory Committee on Police-Community Relations and dean of Students at the Methodist College of Nursing, said it's difficult to wake up to news like Sunday's, having lost many of his own friends to gun violence or incarceration on gun charges.

"I really want us to do better, Peoria. And I really think that we will. I think a lot of us are waking up and realizing we don't like what we're seeing in the mirror right now in our community," Allen said. "And it's time for us to make a change."

Allen said community members have to hold each other accountable in their own spheres of influence. He said tallying up smaller wins will help make larger changes. He also urged community members to get involved in organizations like the police-community relations committee.

Police have made no arrests in connection with the incident so far, but Peoria County State's Attorney Jodi Hoos promised justice.

"This is unacceptable. And we will prosecute those responsible for this. And we will hold them accountable," she said.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.