Arlington neighborhood crime forum draws 200

ARLINGTON -- Lots of police brass, City Council members and residents -- about 200 of them -- turned out Wednesday evening to talk about neighborhood crime in the wake of the fatal shooting of an 18-year-old Mansfield Summit High School student by an off-duty Houston police officer.

Several deputy chiefs, officers and leaders of divisions stood before the crowd at Williams Elementary in southeast Arlington and talked about how neighbors can combat crime.

Councilman Robert Rivera, whose District 3 includes the southeast Arlington neighborhood where the shooting occurred, organized the meeting.

"We have a lot of eyes on the situation," Rivera said, noting the size of the crowd. He encouraged residents to heed what Arlington police said: Call 911 and report suspicious activity.

"Only with the involvement of the citizens will we resolve this," said Councilwoman Sheri Capehart, who represents neighboring District 2.

Clevonta Reynolds died April 19. The officer, Rafael Baez, a 17-year veteran of the Houston Police Department, had come upon a street fight involving girls when he saw Reynolds, who ignored his command to drop a gun, according to reports. Police have said that some of those involved in the fight have gang ties.

Tension grew after police said inaccurate accounts of what happened were being spread through text messaging and social media sites. The department started releasing news on the Internet as well to traditional media.

Some of that tension could be felt at the meeting, which was attended by several people who apparently were friends of Reynolds. Some asked pointed questions about the case, which officers said they could not answer because of the ongoing investigation. Others seemed frustrated because they wanted to know specifics about the shooting.

Arlington Deputy Chief Jeff Petty told the residents that police are continuing their investigation, that they have interviewed 19 people and that they will turn the case over to a Tarrant County grand jury, which will weigh whether to indict Baez.

Neighbors Rashida Woods and Karen Henderson said they were impressed by the number of people who attended the meeting. Something needs to be done about youth violence, they said. Children as young as middle schoolers are starting to fight, Woods said.

"We need more communities to get involved," Henderson said.

But most who attended were like James Stokes, who said he has lived on East Embercrest Drive since 1995.

"We feel reasonably safe and just want to make sure we're aware" of what's going on, Stokes said.

Because his wife could not attend, he said, he recorded the event on his iPhone.

Arlington police say there are 40 known gangs in the city, some with members still in school, and nearly 1,000 documented gang members.

Gang-related shootings are down in Arlington, with 63 in 2008, 47 in 2009 and nine this year, police have reported.

Staff writer Susan Schrock contributed to this report.

ELIZABETH ZAVALA, 817-390-7418

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