York City Police investigating connections between recent shootings: Mayor

Aimee Ambrose
York Dispatch

Detectives are investigating potential connections between some of the shootings in York City over the past week, Mayor Michael Helfrich confirmed Wednesday.

Helfrich couldn’t say anything more definitive about the cases, as investigations are still underway in each incident. In all, two people were killed and six others were injured in seven shootings since last Thursday.

The most recent attacks occurred Tuesday, when a juvenile was shot in an alley behind the 900 block of Wayne Avenue around 3:50 p.m. and an 18-year-old man was shot somewhere in the city about 5½ hours later. Both victims were brought to local hospitals in private vehicles.

Of the homicide victims, DaJuan Williams-Banks, 24, was shot and killed in a home in the 300 block of West North Street around 6:20 p.m. Saturday, while Marion Diaz, 48, was killed in a home in the 600 block of Vander Avenue around 10:30 that same night. Police noted Diaz was involved in a domestic disturbance before he was shot.

“We had a bad week,” Helfrich said.

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The mayor pointed out the rash of gun violence broke a streak of about two months since the city’s last criminal homicide, adding that he doesn’t consider the incidents a crisis since they haven’t boosted local homicide statistics.

“The fact that two (homicides) happened now — it’s an anomaly, but it’s not a public crisis,” Helfrich said.

He noted the city had 11 homicides in 2020 and again in 2021. That was down from 13 in 2019.

A fatal shooting that occurred in the 300 block of West North Street Sunday, March 6, 2022, was one of two that occurred in York City Saturday. Bill Kalina photo

City Council President Sandie Walker described the sudden outbreak of violence as heartbreaking.

“When it’s almost back-to-back, it kind of takes you by surprise, and it’s unfortunate,” Walker said.

She added that the latest shootings aren’t unique, in that the city has experienced “spurts” of violence and homicides in the past. And when they happen, the trauma to the victims and the community in general “has a ripple effect.”

Walker couldn’t speak to the causes behind the recent shootings, saying the council doesn’t receive briefings or updates on violent incidents. However, she's looking forward to a plan for Helfrich and Police Commissioner Michael Muldrow to begin providing monthly updates on violent crimes to the council.

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Ophelia Chambliss, of the York chapter of the NAACP, said the organization is concerned with the root causes of gun violence. Much of that boils down to a lack of resources for housing, health care, adequate education, employment opportunities and child care as contributors, along with drug issues and feelings of hopelessness, she said.

“Those circumstances will eventually lead to an increase in violence,” Chambliss said. “If we were able to resolve maybe some of those underlying issues … that should be able to alleviate or reduce or eliminate the gun violence issues.”

Helfrich credited a combination of tactics and initiatives, including the Group Violence Intervention initiative, for bringing homicide numbers down over the past couple of  years. He said law enforcement and representatives from local services have been reaching out to people with inclinations toward gun violence and diverting them into other behaviors, or have been working on building a greater sense of community responsibility.

Police, he said, have been working to reduce the number of guns on the streets.

“We have taken more guns off the streets than ever last year,” Helfrich said, adding that he believes the figures were a combination of more guns coming into the community and police getting better at seizing them. “We are also working more intelligently and more precisely in targeting individuals that have been known to have illegal firearms.”

Walker praised Muldrow’s focus on community outreach and intervention. She also said she’s looking forward to seeing Muldrow’s plans over the next year.

“We’ll have to continue to take things one step at a time and pray some of these interventions work,” she said.

— Aimee Ambrose can be reached at aambrose@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @aimee_TYD.