CLEARWATER — In the wake of two shootings in less than a week that have left two dead and one seriously injured, Clearwater police will be out in force in the North Greenwood neighborhood this weekend.
Local ministers planned on joining them Friday night to walk the neighborhood, seeking peaceful ways of quelling the recent violence and drumming up tips about the two shootings.
Pastor Sylvester Banks, a member of the Upper Pinellas County Ministerial Alliance, said Friday that another goal was to help "mediate" what appears to be an ongoing dispute between different neighborhood cliques.
The Rev. Ray Chester, of Westcoast Center for Human Development, said there was a message in the most recent shooting, which happened early Friday.
"This is God's way of telling us … 'hurry,' " Chester said.
On Friday, 20-year-old Tristan Hilton was seriously wounded. He was shot several times near the home of one of the victims in a shooting from last Sunday night.
Hilton was shot about 1 a.m. when a group of people pulled up to 1006 Metto St. and got out of a vehicle — possibly a silver Kia Forte — then started shooting at people who had gathered there.
Police officers heard the shots and went to the single-family home, which is just a few blocks from where two men were gunned down Sunday night. They found bullet casings, but not the victim or any suspects.
Hilton was found later at Morton Plant Hospital and is expected to survive, police said. Another person was apparently grazed by a bullet, but declined medical treatment.
The shooting happened outside the home of 23-year-old Derrick Kelly Harris, one of two men with lengthy arrest records who were killed in a shooting Sunday near LaSalle Street and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.
Clearwater police on Friday named a suspect in last Sunday's double homicide — Bryan Caldwell, 22, who's wanted on two counts of second-degree murder. Police said he's considered armed and dangerous.
The other man killed last Sunday was William John Hamilton, 30. He died less than 24 hours after being arrested because he reportedly attacked a person with a 2 by 4 and threw a cement block through a car window.
Police declined Friday to say whether they believe the two shootings are linked. But Friday's shooting spurred a meeting among spiritual leaders and a news conference from Clearwater police Chief Tony Holloway.
Holloway said that Harris' and Hamilton's families were meeting with police Friday. "The family members also want this to end," the chief said.
Community leaders in the area are trying to assist police by directing witnesses to them, Holloway said. He added that information coming in through the department's anonymous tip line was also generating leads.
Holloway said North Greenwood residents could expect to see a heavier police presence as the investigation continues. He had originally increased patrols there a few weeks ago after police got several calls about shots being fired.
On March 23, police arrested two men on gun charges and a third man on a warrant after they were called to the neighborhood by a person who said three men were standing near a porch with handguns tucked in their waistbands.
Police found the men in an apartment on Palm Bluff Street, just a block south of Sunday's killings and a block north of Harris' home.
The investigations have been challenging because witnesses have refused to come forward.
"Obviously, it would be very helpful if some of the citizens in the neighborhood would step forward to help us end the violence," said Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard.
Hibbard meets quarterly with the Upper Pinellas County Ministerial Alliance.
"That's why we're hoping to get the churches involved, because they might have greater influence to overcome the snitch mentality," he said.
Banks, from Bible Church of God, hoped spiritual leaders would be able to create change in the minds of some of the neighborhood's young people who feel that violence is a solution to their disputes. He had a message for them:
"There is hope. There is someone that cares, that has concern, that loves them despite their situation right now," he said. "There is hope in the midst of your situation … and you cannot give up."