ELPD Responds to Shots Fired in Grove Street Garage

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Monday, August 20, 2018, 1:34 pm
Jessy Gregg

The East Lansing Police Department responded to shots fired in the Grove Street Parking Garage early in the morning of Sunday, August 19. No one was injured.

According to Deputy Chief Steve Gonzalez, an officer in her patrol car was near the garage and heard the shots.

“She was able to coordinate the response and basically lock down the garage within a minute,” he said.

Two people were found leaving the stairwell and were questioned as witnesses to the shooting. ELPD is reviewing video footage from the garage security cameras to see if they can establish the identity of the shooter, who has not been apprehended yet. Gonzalez described the images as “good quality” and was hopeful that an identity could be made.

Gonzalez told ELi in a phone interview that, based on witness testimony, he believes the shooter was involved in a confrontation with the two witnesses and discharged the firearm without the intent to harm, firing the gun into the concrete garage wall.

MSU Police sent out a security alert at 2:43 a.m. on Sunday morning saying that ELPD was responding to shots fired. But there was no notification sent out through the Nixle system which ELPD uses to notify residents of emergency situations.

Gonzalez explained that no Nixle alert was sent because all available ELPD officers were working the scene at the Grove Garage. Shift supervisors are usually responsible for sending out Nixle alerts, and on the morning of August 19, there was only one supervisor on duty, and that officer was managing the scene.

When emergency situations arise during the day, alerts can be delegated to administrative staff. According to Gonzalez, by the time the police were sure that there was no active shooter or victim in the garage, it was determined that there was no threat to the community, and therefore the department did not find it necessary to send out an emergency alert which might have caused unnecessary panic.

ELPD will be increasing vehicle, foot, and bicycle patrols in the downtown parking garages not only as a response to this gun-related incident but also in anticipation of classes starting at MSU and the additional 50,000 students who will be taking up residence in East Lansing this week.

I asked Gonzalez whether recent incidents of gun violence in East Lansing represent an increase, and he responded that they do not. Since 2015, when a Dewitt township man was fatally shot in the Grove Street Parking Garage, there have been two additional gun-related incidents, both of which started at East Lansing night spots.

A man discharged a firearm into the air at Reno’s East in July of this year, and a man exchanged gunfire with an armed security guard at the Six Hookah Lounge in April. Gonzalez told ELi that that is about what the ELPD would expect over that period.

“I would say we’re tracking with the status quo, that’s basically what we would expect to see on any given year,” he said. He went on to say that ELPD recently met with the owner of the Six Lounge to work on a plan for avoiding violent incidents in the future.

Regarding safety downtown, Gonzalez told ELi that, generally speaking, late-night violent incidents in East Lansing are not tied to specific businesses but rather tend to take place on the streets where people gather after the bars close at 2 a.m. Patrol officers on foot and on bicycles are much more effective in managing the after-bar crowd than police in squad cars, according to Gonzalez.

He said that when large crowds are anticipated, such as during welcome week and on game days, East Lansing can call on other agencies to help manage the crowds. The mounted division of the Ingham County Sherriff’s department can be particularly effective with crowd control, since when people see a horse coming down the street, “they tend to get out of the way.” He went on to say that bicycle and mounted horse patrols are also more maneuverable and can get into tight areas, like parking garages, more effectively than squad cars can.

Gonzalez said that Nixle is still the best way for East Lansing residents to stay apprised of emergency situations in town. If you are not already receiving Nixle alerts, you can sign up to receive them here.


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