Investigators have failed to make arrests in three slayings in Lancaster since May 30 because witnesses refuse to cooperate with police, law enforcement officials said today.
“We can’t solve these cases without witnesses willing to come into court,” District Attorney Craig Stedman said in making an appeal for cooperation at an 11 a.m. news conference. “We can’t charge based on anonymous tips.”
Stedman said the failure to hold violent people accountable can result in retaliation with innocent people getting caught in the crossfire.
He said the three homicides are not related and happened for “absurd reasons.” Police have a person of interest in each case.
Lancaster city has been plagued by 11 violent incidents since the end of April that have left four dead and 14 injured.
“People need to step up and decide what kind of community they want to live in,” Stedman said.
The three homicide victims since the end of May were:
— Tyreek Shyheim Gardner, 22, of the 400 block of Candlewyck Road, who was shot and killed May 30 in the 500 block of East Chestnut Street. Police released a video of a person of interest and asked the public for help to identify him. The people involved knew each other, Stedman said.
— Benjamin Omar Ramos, 16, of the 800 block of Rolridge Avenue, who was fatally stabbed June 12 in the 900 block of Fremont Street. Several people who know who the suspect is have retained attorneys and "refuse to discuss the case," Stedman said. Investigators think street gangs were involved, he said.
— Anthony Marshall, 44, who was shot to death June 16 in the 600 block of Lafayette Street. "We know there were a number of people on the street who saw this ... (and) have not come forward," Stedman said.
Police Chief Jarrad Berkihiser said detectives have made significant progress in each case, but still lack vital information because witnesses have balked.
“This is not a civilized way to live,” Berkihiser said.
Investigators working tirelessly
Stedman said city investigators have worked tirelessly and he’s more than satisfied with the progress they’ve made.
“We can’t arrest anybody until we have somebody who is willing to go to court (with testimony) that’s going to hold up,” he said.
Asked about the investigation into the fourth homicide, the fatal shooting of Tony Torrellas, 31, on April 27 on South Queen Street, Stedman said the investigation is "wrapping up."
No one has been charged, Stedman said, and more information will be released next week.
The district attorney's office also presented the news conference in Spanish in hopes of reaching more people in a city where Spanish is many residents' first language. It was the first time a news conference had been shared in Spanish, Stedman said. Janet Diaz, Lancaster city councilwoman, proposed the idea.
"We want to make sure we are communicating with people who may not speak English as their first language or at all," he said.
Staff writer Lindsey Blest contributed to this report.