JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- Johnson City Police are still searching for a suspect who fled the scene of a shooting that injured a 15-year-old over the weekend.
The shooting occurred around 11:30 p.m. Saturday in the Cherry Street Parking Lot downtown. The suspect is believed to have left in a blue Chrysler PT Cruiser.
The teen was located at the scene and transported to a nearby hospital to be treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
This shooting was the second involving a teen within recent weeks.
“What’s alarming to me and most of the folks and the citizens of Johnson City is that juveniles are getting access to firearms and that comes back to parenting,” said JCPD Lieutient Don Shephard with the Criminal Investigations Division. “Who’s watching these juveniles? Who’s giving them access?”
There was a shooting at a West Walnut Street house party on August 22 that resulted in a 13-year-old being arrested and charged with attempted second-degree murder on September 2.
“With gun laws changing, there’s more access to guns,” said Shephard. “With the politics changing, there’s also a fear of people not being able to get guns so more purchases are being made. All of that I’m sure has something to do with all the guns we’re coming across here in our city and I’m sure other jurisdictions are as well.”
Shephard couldn’t comment on the shooting from this past weekend since the victim is a minor and the investigation is ongoing.
“There are several establishments that serve alcohol well into the night and into the early morning hours and with that comes a slew of people from other areas to patron those businesses,” said Shephard. “So, when you have that kind of people around and alcohol involved, of course, any kind of disturbance is going to be magnified.”
Over the past few months, there have been several shootings and gun-related incidents at or near bars.
Back on April 24, there was another shooting on the corner of Cherry and Spring Streets.
A man was arrested and charged with felony reckless endangerment, possession of a firearm while intoxicated and evading arrest after police say he fired a gun inside Numan’s Café & Sports Bar on May 16.
That shooting injured an uninvolved person.
The following Saturday, May 22, JCPD officers were called to Numan’s again for reports of an argument in front. Witnesses said a man fired a gun toward the ground, and according to police, one shot struck the front of the building, shattering a glass window.
On May 27, an armed man was shot by police just outside of Yee-Haw Brewing Company during their interaction.
“The downtown businesses that serve alcohol draw in a lot of people from outside our area. That combined with the homeless population going on downtown, that seems to be the similarity where instances occur,” Shephard said. “Also, when people drink too much and are over-served, that’s also an issue downtown and that’s something that the Johnson City Police Department is actively investigating.”
Lieutenant Shephard says homeless people downtown are often the victims of crime and not the suspects.
“They don’t have a permanent place to store their items so sometimes they’re victims of theft and that occurs every day and every night in Johnson City,” he said.
However, he says the city is working to deter crime by adding more lighting and looking at adding cameras.
“Over the last 2-3 years, we’ve established some extra lighting downtown and that’s helped quite a bit,” he said.
Right now, vendors are putting packages together for the city commission to look at to add cameras.
“Camera and additional lighting are always a good deterrent to crime. We’ve done that in the past where lighting has helped and it shows,” said Shephard. “In the last year or two, things have gotten better, we’ve got numbers where we can put officers specifically in the downtown area patrolling at a specific time and that has helped as well.”
If you have any information regarding the shooting over the weekend, you’re urged to contact Johnson City Police. You can remain anonymous when submitting information. Shephard says you should be vigilant for yourself but also be a good witness in the event something happens.
“I don’t think there’s any place to avoid, I think it’s important that you come in numbers. Don’t meet downtown and everybody drive,” he said. “Meet somewhere else and everybody rides together and when you park, be vigilant. Look around see what’s going on in your surroundings.”