City officials, organizers look for answers after shootings

Mayor Greg Ballard, city officials and IBE organizers spoke Sunday.
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Richard Essex/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - Mayor Greg Ballard says he's outraged at shooting attacks which left ten people wounded during the Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration.

Ballard and other leaders held a news conference Sunday to talk about the three attacks, none of which happened at Expo events themselves.

"This incident, I want everybody to understand, does not define the Summer Celebration. It does not define Black Expo, it does not define the City of Indianapolis, nor the African-American community in Indianapolis," Ballard said.

Clergy called for parents to get in the game, police say they were doing their job and organizers of Summer Celebration said they were tired of defending the actions of a few.

"I am sick and tired of us making excuses for some of our young people," said a clergy member.

Those speaking at the Sunday press conference at the Artsgarden, over the scene of one of the shootings, are looking for answers. Not just the arrest of the person or persons who fired the shots into a crowd Saturday night, but how to keep this kind of violence out of Indiana Black Expo's Summer Celebration.

"Because, at the end of the day, we still have to make sure we are providing options of our youth and I think if Indiana Black Expo did not provide things like the celebrity basketball game or other youth events, it would probably be a worse problem," said Tanya Bell, the president and chief operating officer of Indiana Black Expo.

The shooting is a punctuation mark on the 40-year history of Summer Celebration. The final Saturday of the nine-day event is unofficially called "Second Saturday" and is an increasing thorn in the side of organizers and police.

"This is not the first incident that has occurred downtown during one of our events," said Bell.

In past years, hundreds of teenagers have been picked up for curfew violations and the night is often shattered with gunfire and crowds running for cover.

"Let's not ignore the bigger, deeper, critical and urgent issue that plagues black families and that black-on-black crime, when did it get to the point that our babies can pull the trigger without a conscious, while innocent lives are in harm's way and police officers are standing nearby," said Bell.

For police, the first order of business is capturing those responsible for the shootings.

"We know who the shooter is. We have the shooter on film. We have the incident on film and we will bring the shooter to justice," said Straub.

Bringing those responsible to justice is just one piece of the puzzle the group is charged to assemble. The other is to convince the community that Summer Celebration is safe.

"We need to deal with the real issues. Some of our kids are out of control, some of our kids are rude, bad, they don't care how they talk to people, they disrespect authority and they don't respect property or life and some of our kids are violent," said Reverend Charles Harrison.

No one in the group is offering any immediate solutions. Bell said she needs some time to look things over.

"I think, instead of rushing to judgement or say what we should or should not do about events, we need to first sit down and kind of take everything in and then figure out what we need to do about that Saturday night," she said. "My response is, the community is going to sit down and we are going to brainstorm at a table and look at what other options are available."

Sunday morning on Eyewitness News Weekend Sunrise, Straub talked about potential security changes for next year's Black Expo. He said to keep people safe, officials are considering what's called a "secure zone" downtown. It's the same plan the city will use when it hosts the Super Bowl in 2012.

"You create a secure zone around the Super Bowl. You're able to search people coming in, wand them to make sure that they don't have weapons and these are the kinds of things the mayor and I were talking about last night," Dr. Straub said. "Is there a way, going forward with Black Expo, to theoretically create a safe zone so young people can come and participate in Black Expo and be downtown, but yet have the ability to look for guns and those types of things."

Meanwhile, Straub is working to get more guns off the street.

"During the course of last night, we seized a 9mm handgun, an AK-47, a .22-caliber pistol that was in the hands of a 15-year old and a .32-caliber handgun that was in the hands of an 18-year old who was one of our shooting victims," he said.

Reverend Harrison says he is just plain mad.

"The police department, Indiana Black Expo and the faith community cannot be babysitters for thousands of kids. Parents, you have a responsibility to bring your children to Expo and they cannot be here without parental guidelines," he said.

(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)