As Alicia Roberts and Niki Miles watch children play at Rogers Park one recent afternoon, they can’t help but notice the number of police cars pulling through the parking lot.
“I’ve seen multiple cops in the last hour, so I feel safe over here,” says Roberts, as she helps Miles look after her three small children.
Another rolls through just as she finishes the sentence, and an unmarked police car cruises through the parking lot as they prepare to leave.
They aren’t surprised at the police presence because Rogers Park is just down the street from the scene of a double murder on Sycamore Circle where two men were gunned down less than two weeks earlier.
A little more than four months into 2014 those two deaths brought the total to six murders across the city, already matching the highest number for the last seven years when six people were killed in 2008. Three people were murdered here in 2011 and 2013 and four in 2012.
Yet Murfreesboro Police spokesman Kyle Evans says the city remains safe and he notes that four incidents that led to the six deaths are not related and are not random acts of violence.
“Drugs and gang activity are common factors in the homicides, although not believed to be related to each other,” he states in an email response to questions. “Any time persons engage in illegal and dangerous behavior, the risk of becoming the victim of violent acts increases.”
• Robert Aubrey McAdoo Jr., 44 of 334 E. State St., and Michael Orlando Evans, 47, of 2027 Olympia Place, were shot to death early April 29 at 2206 Sycamore Circle. No arrests have been made in the double murder.
• Anthony P. Smith, 22, of Short Creek Road in Christiana, is charged with first-degree murder in the April 8 shooting death of Christopher Turley, 23, at his East Clark Boulevard apartment complex. Turley’s body was found lying in the parking lot of Stonewood Apartments. After Smith was targeted as a suspect, he admitted to shooting Turley, according to his arrest warrant.
• Police are still looking for a suspect in the death of Mikal Shakir, 20, of 1306 Bradyville Pike who was found dead by police in his apartment Feb. 10 when they answered a burglary call.
• Two brothers, Danarius Coleman, 19, and Demetrius Coleman, 21, both Antioch residents from Chicago, are being held on $750,000 bond on first-degree murder charges in the Jan. 29 shooting deaths of Latre Lillard, 19, and Andre Chesterfield, 19, in the Walmart parking lot off North Thompson Lane. Testimony in a General Sessions Court hearing showed Danarius Coleman told his girlfriend he was preparing for an “easy takedown” in a drug-deal robbery and later admitted to her that he killed two people.
Despite the number of drug-related murders, Evans says nothing suggests any type of gang war is taking place here, either.
Asked if there is a growing link between Chicago and Murfreesboro in the illicit drug trade, Evens there have always been connections between drug and gang activity with large cities but that they may not have played a direct role in the homicides of Lillard and Chesterfield.
The homicides on Sycamore are being investigated by MPD’s Gang Unit because of possible gang connections by the people involved, he says, but that doesn’t mean the double shooting was “motivated” by gang activity.
In the wake of these murders, MPD’s Directed Patrol Unit is gathering street intelligence and information on illegal activities to arrest people that have warrants, commit crimes, especially drug-related crimes and to stop street and neighborhood criminal activity, Evans states.
The Vice Section and Gang Unit are also working behind the scenes to develop and work cases to disrupt and deter criminal activity while the Violent Crimes Unit tries to make arrests in these murders.
In addition, MPD works with the Community Anti-Drug Coalition of Rutherford to prevent gang activity through the Gang Resistance and Education Program taught in Murfreesboro City Schools.
Murfreesboro residents have nothing to fear in the areas where these shooting deaths took place, according to Evans.
“Violent behavior can happen anywhere and anytime, and citizens should take reasonable steps to be aware of their surroundings and to protect themselves from those chance situations,” he states.
Getting involved in illegal activity or dangerous behavior increases the potential of being a victim of violent crime, he notes.
“We believe that Murfreesboro is a safe community and the recent homicides do not reflect the overall safety of our community,” he states. Evans points out that arrests have been made in two of the four incidents and the department will continue to pursue the cases.
Anyone with information is encouraged to call the Criminal Investigations Division at (615) 893-2717 to speak with a detective. Callers can remain anonymous and earn up to $1,000 by providing information to Crime Stoppers at (615) 893-STOP (7867).
In spite of Evans’ comments about neighborhood safety, Niki Miles feels uneasy at Rogers Park.
“I personally don’t like the park because of the kind of people who hang out here,” she says.
Roberts adds that she doesn’t like to take her niece there on weekends to shoot basketball because the courts are dominated by high school and college-age people.
On this day, though, they catch the park when all is peaceful – and plenty of police are around.