'They just get crazy out there': Residents say shooting at York City park not the first

Jerry Mellen was walking from his truck to his front door Sunday afternoon when he saw a young man shoot at a group of teens playing basketball in York City's Williams Park.

After five years living on the corner of Cottage Hill Road and Smith Street, the scene was all too common, he said. 

"You almost sleep right though them now," Mellen added. 

Cottage Hill Road resident Jerry Mellen describes, Monday, March 25, 2019, the position of the person who shot into a crowded Williams Park in York City Sunday. York City Police reported that two minors were shot Sunday afternoon at the park near the intersection of Smith Street and Cottage Hill Road. Bill Kalina photo

York City Police said two people were injured in a targeted shooting just before 4 p.m. Sunday, March 24. They were taken to York Hospital, where they remained Monday, for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries, according to city officials. 

The victims have been uncooperative, police noted. 

Lt. William Wentz, who supervises the detective bureau, said a 17-year-old was shot in the leg and 20-year-old Derias Savoy was shot in the back. Savoy, Wentz said, is originally from the Baltimore area.

On Monday, police still didn't know exactly what happened. 

“We’re trying to determine that, nobody’s really cooperating, even the victims — they don’t want any police involvement," he said.

Three teens at the park were taken into custody for questioning, but their parents did not want them talking to police, according to Wentz. 

Two of them are 16, and one is 15, according to city spokesman Philip Given.

Wentz said investigators found shell casings for two different weapons, meaning there could possibly be two shooters.

The lieutenant said the department is asking people to come forward. He said he was told there were a lot of people at the park during the shooting. 

“On a nice day like it was (Sunday), I'm sure somebody saw something," he said. 

The lieutenant said that if people fear retaliation, police can file additional charges.

"We do anything we can ... at our disposal to make sure that they're safe," he said.

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'Bullet riddled': Mellen, originally from Montana, said he's seen at least three shootings in the park since moving to York City. There have been even more in the general area, he said. The previous Sunday he heard someone shoot off six to seven rounds around 5:30 a.m., and a house behind his is "bullet riddled," he said. 

York City Police investigate the scene of a shooting at Williams Park in York City, Sunday, March 24, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Neighbor Larry Blouse also saw the shooting, noting it was the fourth time in the past three years "this kind of thing has happened."

"Especially at this park, they just get crazy out there. And kids with guns? I just don't understand," he said. 

Mellen said he fears for the safety of his two teenagers, an 18-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter. 

"Parks are for the kids, and I can't even feel comfortable letting them go there. It's kind of scary knowing these young people are running around with firearms that have no idea about firearm safety or even ... what firearms can do to somebody," he said. 

Officials react: York City Councilman Michael Buckingham said gun violence is "certainly an issue on everyone's minds," but he's not sure what the solution should be. 

One option, according to Buckingham, a Democrat seeking re-election, is simply to give youth hope — "hope that there's a pathway out of this existence." 

The best way to do so is through education, he said.

"I think if people saw a pathway out of this, maybe they can consider alternatives to this kind of violence," Buckingham said. 

GVI: The councilman also touted the Group Violence Intervention initiative, stating that the "city is on the right track." 

Lou Rivera, a Democratic candidate for City Council, also pointed to the GVI as an example that the city is having the "kinds of conversations about gun violence" the city needs. 

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"We just need to ensure that we continue those conversations," he said.

York City Police Chief Troy Bankert said it goes without saying that the department is concerned about the shooting Sunday. 

“All shootings are concerns; we will continue our Group Violence Intervention initiative for our response,” he said. 

Wentz, York City Police's GVI liaison, said officials were still trying to determine the exact response to the Sunday shooting.

"We’re going to do additional patrols in the area," he said.

As part of the initiative response, police could do a number of things, including probation visits, traffic stops and foot patrols.

Other council members did not return a request for comment.

York City Mayor Michael Helfrich was not immediately available for comment Monday. 

Background: In February 2017, York City implemented GVI, a three-year anti-gun violence initiative modeled after nationally renowned criminologist David M. Kennedy's work in Boston in the 1990s.

GVI director Jim Tice stepped down in June 2018, and the program is currently run by Jim Tyson, pastor of City Church York. 

Tyson did not respond to a request for comment on the current status of the initiative and its potential for success. 

Mellen said he's never heard of the GVI but isn't sure what more the city or police department could do toward preventing violence. He added that even before he was off the phone with 911, at least six or seven patrol cars had shown up. 

"I think the big problem is nobody giving (investigators) any information. All those kids playing basketball — at least one of them must have known this person," he said. 

Mellen said he and a neighbor who saw what happened spoke to the police, but others  — including those playing basketball at the time — took off. 

"I think there's fear in the communities of retribution from these kids," he said. 

In his Mayor's Monday Message video, Helfrich said the city needs witnesses to step up and cooperate. The "don't snitch" culture makes the city unsafe, he said.

"It makes it so 100 individuals control the rest of us," he added.

Those with information about the shooting may contact York City Police via an anonymous tip line by texting "yorktips" and their information to 847411. They also may call the York City Police tip line at 717-849-2204 or 717-846-1234.

Check back later for updates.

Interactive map of York City shootings