PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Peoria police are addressing the string of violence that occurred in the city over the weekend.
Police provided mutual aid Friday evening when a man shot at two Peoria County deputies, who then shot back, and fled into the woods near Park and Texas Road.
Officers investigated a homicide on Saturday morning near Latrobe and Ligonier Street, and an officer was shot in the leg Sunday morning after noticing a large group fighting near Green and Adams Street.
Eric Echevarria officially started his role as the city’s new police chief Monday and agreed the weekend marked a busy start to his new role.
“It’s one too many gunfire incidents in the city of Peoria,” Echevarria said. “It was a busy night, a lot of people are out and about. I think COVID kept people locked up for a while, and I think everybody is super excited to be out, maybe overly excited and not behaving appropriately.”
In addition to being out of the house, he said a number of reasons may have also contributed to the violence over the weekend.
“Unfortunately, we have people who may be under the influence, there may be some mental health issues involved, drugs and the courage may just go up a little bit based on all of that,” Echevarria said. “So, we really need to be out there and taking these guns off the street.”
“We need people to stop shooting, we need people to find different ways to resolve their issues within themselves and not bring guns to the fight,” Echevarria said.
He said the department is going to start looking into strategies to change this dynamic. The city’s new top cop also echoed community leaders and said the resolution to the violence has to be a community effort.
“The community knows who’s pulling the triggers, the community knows where these guns are… people in the community know this,” Echevarria said. “So, we need people to work with us, alongside us, and help us figure out where they’re coming from, who’s committing the crimes.”
“The Peoria residents and community deserve to live peacefully, and we want to be that catalyst for them to cause that peace and reduce crime, and the only way we’re going to be able to do that is to really partner with the community and build those relationships,” Echevarria said.
He said he’s working with other officers to try to attend all the city’s Night Out Against Violence events, Tuesday night, and start building those community relationships.
“I want to meet those who are there and be able to talk with them and make those connections,” Echevarria said.