SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — A top South Bend official pleaded for an end to violence the day after a vigil for a 2-year-old boy was held outside the home where he was fatally shot while playing in the front yard.
"I think everyone is appropriately outraged to the recent spate of violence we have been having in the city," Deputy Mayor Mark Neal said during a news conference Friday.
The event came two days after the death of John Swoveland Jr., who was playing outside when he was struck by what police believe was a stray bullet that came from a gunfight between two rival groups.
The boy's relatives and others held candles Thursday night as they stood around a simple wooden cross surrounded by flowers, balloons, stuffed animals and small candles that formed a heart.
The boy's great aunt, Dianne Perkins, told reporters that she hopes whoever fired the shots will take responsibility for taking the life of a young child.
Family member Tracy Lazo said she prays people will speak up and help police.
"There's no question here in the city, we have groups, some of them might be considered gangs, but we do have groups of people, maybe small cliques, maybe family members," Neal said. "We are certainly aware of those people and are concerned of activities."
Neal said the city has revised police patrols and officials are working with experts from John J. College in New York to develop a strategy for prevention.
But that will take time, Neal said.
"We cannot hurry to get it done," he said.
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