JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — The same day Monarch Apartments’ owners sent residents a lengthy description of planned security changes at the complex, News Channel 11 spoke with Timmothy Walker, a Monarch resident who called 911 the night Ja’Shon Yates was killed there.
Walker lives a few doors down from apartment 4205, where the Jan. 1 shooting took place. He said he can’t count the number of shootings and other incidents he’s had to report in his two years living at Monarch.
Walker said he passed the party at 4205 that turned violent as he returned home from work and said nothing seemed overly out of hand, particularly for New Year’s.
“[People at the party] just sounded like they were having a lot of fun,” Walker said. “It just didn’t seem like anything’s gonna happen. It just seemed like a bunch of people having a party.”
Walker said he then fell asleep and around 2:30 a.m., he heard gunshots.
“I didn’t actually think they were gunshots at first. Honestly, stuff like this is so [common] at
Monarch that residents get desensitized to [it]. Your first thoughts stop being ‘oh my god are my
neighbors okay?’ And it starts being ‘who’s banging on the door now? What’s going on? What
kind of drama is it?'”
Although Walker didn’t think it was gunshots, he still proceeded to call 911 because something felt “off” to him.
“About 30 seconds into my call with , the second round of firing happened. I heard screaming, running down the hallway. I could hear neighbors throwing themselves off of the balcony and storming down the halls to try to get away,” recalled Walker. “And it wasn’t party screaming, it was guttural terror.”
‘We don’t get the security that we deserve’
When it comes to safety at the apartment complex, Walker said “there just isn’t any.”
Doors to buildings are “never” locked according to Walker. “The only reassurance that they gave us was that they couldn’t reassure us, that they were not responsible for our safety,” Walker said, which reportedly came in an email to residents.
“We don’t get the security that we deserve. And instead of working with the police, or at least communicating to us properly where the disconnect is, it just feels like they’re throwing their hands up and saying it was another day.”
News Channel 11 requested a statement from Monarch Tuesday regarding safety and potential planned changes to security, but didn’t receive a response.
The request referenced a Monday night email to another resident who had complained, which told her “safety is our number one priority for our residents, guests and staff” and added that “we have made ourselves available to assist local authorities.”
Thursday, Tarantino Properties (Monarch’s owner) followed up with a lengthy letter to residents. That letter also said “safety of our residents, staff and visitors is our number 1 priority.” It referenced the following completed or pending changes:
- Possibly increasing what is already “nightly patrol” by armed private security and engaging the Johnson City Police Department (JCPD) “to utilize available officers to patrol the property grounds and buildings each day until further notice.”
- Restricting access to buildings with new resident key cards, which it said were contracted for completion in August 2022, and for which card readers were installed this week.
- Adding over 50 additional surveillance cameras for the four-building complex. It said they were “being acquired.”
- Reviewing camera footage of access doors to ensure no one is propping open doors, lending out keycards, or otherwise enabling access by non-approved people.
- Issuing new parking passes, strictly monitoring parking and towing unauthorized vehicles.
Walker’s description of life at the complex — along with those of two other residents interviewed earlier this week — made it sound like implementing those would be a major change from the previous status quo.
“One of the other residents,” who Walker doesn’t know due to the complex not having cameras outside, “got completely inebriated and they totaled the car that I had just got that day and drove off. Nothing ever happened, just hit it and just absolutely totaled it and left.”
Walker said incidents like that are common.
“There have been so many attacks on women that live in Monarch, and almost none of them are reported. And the ones that do get reported if they get reported to security, or [to the people in charge], nothing is done. And you have those victims just walking around feeling terrified to be in their own homes. [It’s] ridiculous.”
Monarch Apartments’ demographics are mostly college-age individuals, Walker said, and some feel like they don’t have many other options even if they aren’t wild about their current living situation.
“It’s people who are struggling, it’s college kids like me who got kicked out before we turned 18. I mean, we don’t have resources to make it a safer place, we don’t have resources to leave, we’re kids,” Walker said.
Walker said no matter the age, every human deserves the right to feel safe. “They deserve the right to feel like they’re not going to get attacked in their own home. They deserve to know that at the very least if something does happen, there’s a system in place to get them some form of justice or to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”
“This never should have happened to the people that knew [Ja’Shon Yates]. They deserve
better. We all deserve better but they especially deserve so much better than this.”
So far, one person has been charged in connection to the fatal shooting.
Asked about communications with Monarch management prior to Jan. 1, due to high incidences of assault and other crimes, JCPD Chief Karl Turner said unlike a similar complex does, Monarch had not ever communicated directly with JCPD.
In its Jan. 5 message to residents, Monarch management wrote that in the wake of the shooting it was communicating closely with JCPD, saying the department “has agreed to participate in a community meeting meet (sic) with our community staff & residents to discuss safety protocols, overall safety/awareness items, best practices, and Q&A.”
Management also wrote that its “team has met with JCPD investigators in-person … as well as have called each day to request updated information regarding the incident.” And it wrote that “local law enforcement is working alongside our team to provide guidance and recommendations on continued enhancements.”
News Channel 11 emailed Tarantino/Monarch again early Friday afternoon requesting a statement or comment on details in the Thursday letter to residents and had not heard back as of 3 p.m.