NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — In looking at the raw numbers, one could conclude that the City of Norfolk, with a 20% reduction in all crimes for the year 2020, could breathe a sigh of relief.
But Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone says not so fast.
In 2020, gun violence in Norfolk hit close to home. Police responded to 202 gun incidents, which represent a 28% increase from 2019. The year saw a 333% increase in the number of people shot inside homes.
The Aug. 25, 2020 shooting of four adults and 1-month-old Honesty Brehon — the youngest gunshot victim in modern Norfolk history — was yet another example of how gun-related violence continues to destroy lives and traumatize survivors.
Honesty was seriously injured but survived the shooting, and family members tell 10 On Your Side she continues to make progress.
“Only by the grace of God that she was able to survive,” said Boone, the police chief.
On Wednesday afternoon, Norfolk police announced the arrest of a 20-year-old man wanted in connection with the shooting that injured Honesty and the four adults. Kimahni L. Lankford was charged with five counts of malicious wounding and five counts of use of a firearm in connection with the shooting.
Some of the violence could be related to pandemic-induced stress.
“Family matters, domestic issues, disagreements about minor things in which people became frustrated and decided to handle the dispute with a firearm,” said Boone.
Data provided by police shows overall crime was down 20% in 2020, but a year-over-year graph doesn’t tell the story of how gun-related violence affects families and communities.
“The telltale of your city is measured by gun violence and in that regard, we have failed,” said Chief Boone.
In 2020 and into the few days of 2021, many of the victims are women and children. Pictures provided by the Norfolk Police Department show guns that were either used in the death of a child or used by a child in another person’s death.
Boone has served in the Norfolk Police Department for 30 years, and has been particularly outspoken on the issue of youth gun violence. He was also Virginia Crime Commission by Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Virginia).
Boone said he sees links between gang activity and gun violence.
“From my experience, in those cases where women are shot and our children are shot, they are in the company of a gang member. That’s the reality of it,” said Boone.
Boone said police believe 20-year old Shakiya Johnson of Virginia Beach was in the presence of a gang member two days ago when she was shot and killed in the 2800 block of East Princess Anne Road. Her body was found in the passenger seat of an SUV. The whereabouts of the driver are unknown.
The suspect in Johnson’s death is still on the run. The chief said in this type of violence, there are few murder mysteries — many people know who did it.
Separately, a source tells WAVY-TV 10 that the suspect in the shooting of Honestly and the four adults last August is known as “G-Stacks.” The chief also confirmed eyewitness reports that the man used a long weapon that was described as an AK-47.
On a personnel matter, the chief confirmed the police department is short 100 officers: some quit, some retire and others are leaving for better pay in other cities.