'They're hard for you': Police commissioner persists amid wave of shootings

Aimee Ambrose
York Dispatch

The recent spate of violence — eight people shot, two of them fatally — put a temporary dent in York City Police Commissioner Michael Muldrow’s usual optimism.

Muldrow, a second-generation city police officer, has been the public face of a community-focused approach to policing, leading routine walks with residents and planning a variety of programs designed to curb violence. He personally knew the two homicide victims, which made the rash of shootings even harder to bear.

“They’re working, they’re literally working,” Muldrow said, referring to programs like the Violence Intervention Unit and juvenile engagement. “You lose sight of that when a kid that you knew from school, or a name that you knew all your life, is no longer with us.”

But Muldrow said that, compared with previous years, the city's violent crime is decreasing despite what he described as a "rough week." According to Mayor Michael Helfrich, the city reported 11 homicides in 2020 and again in 2021, down from 13 in 2019.

For the police commissioner, staying the course is important, which includes an ongoing push to implement new crimefighting technology in the city.

York City Police Commissioner Michael Muldrow stands in his office at the police department downtown.

The rash of shootings started Thursday, March 3, with incidents occurring almost each day through the following Tuesday. DaJuan Williams-Banks, 24, was killed in a home in the 300 block of West North Street around 6:20 p.m. that Saturday. Marion Diaz, 48, died about four hours later at a home in the 600 block of Vander Avenue.

Muldrow said he grew up with Diaz, and he knew Williams-Banks from his time as chief of York City School District’s police department.

“They’re hard for you when they happen, particularly because you know the people, you know the families,” he said.

Muldrow echoed conclusions made by police and by  Helfrich that the homicides were localized, almost domestic situations involving people the victims knew. They weren’t connected to the other shootings, in which six people were injured over that period, he said.

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Police hadn’t arrested any suspects, and no charges were filed in any of the cases as of Monday morning, while investigations remain underway. Muldrow said detectives and Violence Intervention personnel are looking into connections between some of the non-homicide shootings. Investigators, though, have hit barriers in a few of the cases.

“Approximately three of the people that were involved in those incidents didn’t want to cooperate in their own justice. That’s a back-breaking feeling,” he said.

As the investigations proceed, Muldrow pointed out the two fatal shootings marked the first criminal homicides in York City for 2022 and that the city almost reached springtime before a person was killed criminally. The shooting death of a man who robbed the Asian Best Chinese and Thai Cuisine restaurant along North Penn Street on Jan. 4 was deemed a justifiable homicide, committed in self-defense.

Overall, the number of shootings and calls about shots fired in York have declined since Muldrow became police commissioner. The number of homicides in 2021 remained steady from 2020, he said, which countered a nationwide trend.

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Moving forward, Muldrow said he’s still pushing to implement new technology to aid policing and evidence-gathering.

“At this point, I’m willing to overturn any rock and any stone,” he said. “I think we need to move to a place where we take the burden off of moms and grandmoms and elderly neighbors and people watching out of their windows, and even the victims of the crimes and their families. It’s time to start to take some of the burden off of people and trying to get people to step up.”

Specifically, he pointed to efforts to set up a citywide camera surveillance system — he praised a system at work in Lancaster — as well as utilizing a ShotSpotter program, which is tech that tracks the sound of gunfire and gives police real-time information on where they occur.

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