Ahead of the Fourth of July weekend, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston Police Department Chief Troy Finner swore to the public they are doing everything in their power to put an end to a local wave of shootings that has left multiple Houstonians dead over the past week. Several young Houston children have been shot in the last few days, including a six-year-old girl who died from her wounds and a one-year-old boy who was shot but ultimately survived.
“No single person in our city should find it acceptable for any person to have the gall to shoot and harm our children in our city,” Turner said.
“This is where all of us should draw the line,” he said.
Joining Turner and Finner at City Hall Friday afternoon were Shirley Steele and Regina Carhee, two women whose families have been torn apart by gun violence in recent days.
On Wednesday, Carhee’s six-year-old granddaughter Harmony and the girl’s parents, Donyavia Lagway and Gregory Carhee, were shot and killed by a masked man at the family’s home. Harmony’s 10-year-old sister was shot but did not die. The young girl played dead until the shooter left, at which point she went and grabbed her one-year-old brother who also survived the attack and called her grandmother for help.
Then on Thursday, Steele’s daughter Layla was shot and killed. Her one-year-old grandson Zeus was also shot in the incident, but the boy survived. The suspected killer’s identity has not been made public, but Turner and Finner said he was out of jail on seven felony bonds and was wearing an ankle monitor at the time of the killing.
As Turner spoke, Carhee and Steele were overcome with emotion, as Turner decried the fact that one of these killers was roaming free on the streets despite having so many felony charges pending against him.
“There’s no real justification for anybody to be out on five, six, seven felony bonds, so let me just say that too has to come to an end. That needs to stop,” Turner said.
While he continually stressed that everyone within the city and county criminal justice systems are “all in this together,” Turner did point to the need to address the backlog of approximately 100,000 cases yet to be heard that have accrued during the pandemic as part of the reason why so many people accused of violent crimes haven’t had their day in court yet.
He did thank Harris County officials for their announcement earlier this week that Commissioners Court would seek to approve additional funding and the hiring of additional judges to help work through that case backlog.
Finner’s message was simple: “Our children — I said it as Executive Assistant Chief, and I’m going to say it as Chief — Hands off. Hands off. You have two families that are ripped apart.”
Compared to last year, Finner said there’s been a 40 percent increase in homicides in the city of Houston year-to-date, and that there have been nearly 240 killings within the city this year alone.
Turner was quick to remind everyone that despite his frustration with the number of people out on multiple bonds who alleged violent felonies, the power to change those policies lies with criminal court judges and not with the city.
“I am the mayor of the city of Houston. I’m not the mayor of the state of Texas, or the region,” Turner said. “The judges [and] the courts are not under my jurisdiction.”
Finner said he hopes that every member of the local criminal justice system can come together “to get our most violent criminals arrested, charted, and then to the court system and to a jury trial, or a trial by judge as quickly as we can, so we can get some of these violent criminals off our streets.”
“I’ve been really clear. I’m not throwing any stones, and I will not do that,” Finner said. “But I will stand up for the great work that our police officers are doing.”
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.