‘It’s like a warzone out there’

Published 8:07 pm Friday, May 6, 2022

Police stepping up patrols at public housing complex in the wake of recent shootings

Suffolk Police Chief Al Chandler says he has increased his department’s presence at Hoffler Apartments off of East Washington Street in the wake of recent shootings that have killed one person, injured a 13-year-old boy and damaged an apartment and several vehicles in the public housing complex.

Chandler spoke Wednesday prior to the announcement of an arrest a day later of Maleek Sailun Meyers, 18, of Franklin, in connection with Wednesday’s shooting death of Rufus Lindell Artis, 31, of Windsor.

Meyers, who had shown up at Sentara Obici Hospital the night of the fatal shooting for a non-life-threatening gunshot wound, has been charged with felony counts of second-degree murder, conspiracy to commit a felony, assault: shoot, stab, etc., in the commission of a felony, discharging a firearm in or around a school and the use or discharge of a firearm in the commission of a felony. He is being held at Western Tidewater Regional Jail.

Newsletter

Email newsletter signup

He has an arraignment hearing in Suffolk General District Court at 9 a.m. May 19.

Police have said they are investigating a possible connection to the April 26 shooting at the Hoffler Apartments that injured the 13-year-old boy.

“We are fully engaged with what is going on,” Chandler said, “and we’re going to continue to do everything that we possibly can do to not only solve this crime, but to lower crime in our area. It’s a challenge right now, as we see crime running rampant right now all over Hampton Roads.”

Chandler said units were able to arrive quickly to the Wednesday shooting. While increasing patrols, he said that crime is moving. Chandler, along with other officers, spent time speaking to residents at Hoffler Apartments later in the day to assure them police are working to make their community safe.

“As we’re increasing patrols, it’s not in one area,” Chandler said. “We have to make sure that we’re increasing patrols, we’re looking at the hotspots, we’re looking at the data, we’re looking at the intelligence information that’s coming out to try the best we can and analyze that information and figure out where it might happen next. It’s very challenging, but we’re doing the best we can to try and get there.”

All of the city’s public housing complexes, including Hoffler Apartments, also have security cameras.

Philip Burns, who has lived at Hoffler Apartments for just over three years, said there have been 10 shootings there in that time. He’s asking for Suffolk Police and the Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority, which manages the property, to work together to increase patrols in the community.

“I’m simply here to request that law enforcement increase patrols between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. because I can be standing outside and they come in, and it’s not residents,” Burns told City Council members during Wednesday’s non-agenda public comment period. “They’re non-residents entering the property and shooting up when children are outside playing. … It’s like a warzone out there.

“We had a shooting at 12:05 a.m. A man died behind the building. We had a shooting there (April 26). A 13-year-old was shot in the arm. I tried to contact my councilman, I tried to contact housing, and it’s just a big throw around, and we need police action out there before children are killed.”

Chandler said the department will be working with regional, state and federal partners “to try and make sure that we can thwart every possible situation that we may have.”

He said for those afraid to speak to the police, they can text or call in tips to the department, and if someone asks not to be identified, the department will not share their identifying information. He said they need residents “to stand up and say ‘this is not going to happen in the neighborhood.’” He said the department plans to leverage all its resources to address gun violence in the neighborhood.

“They’re looking for something to change right now,” Chandler said. “We’re going to do our part, we’re going to do our level best to put as many units out in these areas as possible, to use every bit of police resources to find these actors and stop them as quickly as we possibly can, but we also need our citizens to help us.”