'Don't Shoot' officials continue to send strong message to gangs

By Audrey Williams

April 10, 2013 Updated Apr 10, 2013 at 10:38 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill -- Three homicides within 5 days has prompted a strong response from those behind 'Don't Shoot'. Police believe two of the three are gang-related.

"The message to the people that are creating the problem, to the gang folks in Peoria is 'game on'," said Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

Peoria Police Chief Steve Settingsgaard believes the Sunday shooting at Warren and Butler grew out of a party heavily attended by gang members. That shooting left 17-year-old Trayshawn Blakely dead.

Early Tuesday morning 25-year-old Brandon Thomas was found with multiple gunshot wounds to the head behind 1501 W. Howett.

"We do not believe it was random. We don't believe it was coincidence that it was only two blocks away and the very next day," said Chief Settingsgaard.

He adds, out of their investigations they are now targeting two gangs: Zone Four and the Four Corner Hustlers.

Chief Settingsgaard said, "If they heard our message they decided to ignore it and we are not going to ignore them. Their names, their photographs are in every police car."

Police say about 50 to 100 people are affiliated with the two gangs.
They have ramped up patrols adding extra squad cars and doubling up officers.

Peoria County Sheriff Mike McCoy says he has 515 people right now in his 500 bed jail, but he is ready for more.

"I've told our people to get out the mattresses, because I'm sure that starting this weekend they're going to start coming in. These people have begged us to come after them...and they're going to go to jail and they're going to sleep on the floor until the state's attorney and the U.S. Attorney prosecute them," said Sheriff McCoy.

Officials say they will likely do this over and over again for many years, but over time they hope the frequency can decrease. For now, they say it's not too late for gang members that want out.

Chief Settingsgaard said, "If some young man is sitting out there, or this young man's mother, or grandmother or father is listening to us, who's son is playing around on the fringes of these groups...and nudges that young man to come forward and see us and say 'I need some help', it's not too late for him. "