Hundreds of bullets. Three people shot — one of them a 12-year-old boy. At least 10 buildings hit.
A shooting this week — there have been 13 since Jan. 1 — involved a semiautomatic rifle, city police say, and sent at least one bullet whizzing between the iron rails that shield the Cherry Hill Mini Mart’s windows in the Heart of Boynton neighborhood.
“It had to be a powerful weapon,” said owner Karen Bell. “I’m so grateful nobody got hit, because that would have killed somebody.”
January has been a month of close calls for Boynton Beach residents. A 10-year-old doing back flips on her family’s couch barely twirled past a bullet that shattered the front window. A week later, a 12-year-old skateboarding through his neighborhood was shot in the leg, not someplace more deadly.
The active nature of the investigations has kept city police tight-lipped about what they suspect has spurred the recent gunfire. They did say they are looking at the possibility that the shootings are connected and stressed that they need residents’ help to propel the investigations toward arrests.
“Our officers are working day and night … but there’s only so much we can do,” said police spokeswoman Stephanie Slater.
Police set up an anonymous tip line: 561-742-6802. Residents can also anonymously call Crime Stoppers of Palm Beach County at 800-458-TIPS (8477). Anyone with information that leads to an arrest could be eligible for a reward. Police also accept anonymous tips on the department’s website, www.bbpd.org, or on the MyPD app.
Officers came close Wednesday to catching the black, newer-model luxury sedan that sped off after someone fired off rifle rounds near the market on Northwest Fourth Street. They lost sight of the car near Interstate 95’s Congress Avenue exit in Boca Raton, about 10 miles to the south.
The next night, officers on extra patrol heard between five and eight gunshots on Seacrest Boulevard north of Gateway Boulevard. But they were left with a familiar scene. No shell casings. No proof that bullets hit anything. No where to go from there.
City officials and community leaders have come together to do what they can in the neighborhood. The Boynton Beach Coalition of Clergy met with the mayor, city manager and interim police chief this week.
Commissioner Mack McCray is also working with the coalition.
“My thought is the police is doing their job,” McCray told The Palm Beach Post. He said people are feeling “uneasy.”
“That’s all I’m saying.”
The coalition has two objectives: Stop the crime and stop the fear. The clergymen are working toward creating residents’ groups that will talk directly to city leadership and will host a community meeting Tuesday.
But the coalition knows there is no easy solution.
“This stuff didn’t happen overnight and it’s not going to be fixed overnight. There’s no magic cure,” said Rae Whitely, spokesman for the clergy coalition. “Then you go to bed and wake up and find out another one happened. It’s frustrating.”
The 12-year-old who was shot while skateboarding around his neighborhood Jan. 20 no longer wants his once-prized possession, according to his grandmother, Sheila Smith.
“We shouldn’t have to keep our children in the house and sheltered,” Smith said.
Her grandson, Kamar Brown, stopped at her house on Northwest 11th Avenue for a snack that afternoon. Before he left, “He said ‘OK grandma, get your nap,’ ” she recalled.
At about 3 p.m., Kamar was riding on Northwest Fourth Street. According to police, three men got out of either a gold or tan SUV and sprayed bullets at men by the Cherry Hill market. Kamar took a bullet to the leg.
“He called his mom and said, ‘I think I’ve been shot. I’m not sure,’ ” Smith said.
When Smith arrived police and rescue crews had blocked off the area. “I just collapsed right there in the field,” she said.
Like the city’s two other shooting victims, Kamar suffered non-life threatening injuries. The seventh-grader plans to go back to Congress Middle School on Monday, his grandmother said. He’s ready to get out of the house.
Smith barely sleeps most nights, but still insists on daily walks around her neighborhood. Some residents are afraid to leave their homes, she concedes, but Smith refuses to live in fear.
“I am a firm believer that God will take care of me like he took care of Kamar,” Smith said.
Down the street, Bell, the owner of the Cherry Hill market, is grappling with the gunfire seemingly circling the store. She said her son was bringing products into the store when the shots rang out.
She suspects residents aren’t speaking up because they’re afraid of retaliation. She didn’t realize the police offered several options to call in anonymously.
She hopes something will change.
“I love Cherry Hill with everything in me, but it has gotten so ugly,” Bell said. “I’m tired. I’m angry. I’m sad.”