2 deaths set homicide mark

December 1, 2016 GMT

Two young men dead in about a 24-hour span. Both ruled homicides. Both on the south side of Fort Wayne.

They are the 45th and 46th homicides of the year, breaking the 2013 record of 45.

Sha Rif, 22, was found about 2 a.m. Wednesday at the entrance of the Marathon gas station at South Lafayette and Clinton streets, a prominently located station that shares its axis with McKinnie Street.

Employees said the door is locked from midnight to 4 a.m. when business is done at a side window. Rif would not have been able to enter the store.

Just before 10 p.m. Monday, Romeo Kamale Cansler, 20, was found in his car suffering from a gunshot wound or wounds in a field beyond the rear parking lot of a strip of one-story apartments that make up the 6100 block of Holgate Drive.

Both died of their wounds after police apparently found them alive.

Police are grappling with the cause of these deaths.

″(Wednesday’s) investigation, we got no clue,” said Michael Joyner, public information officer for the Fort Wayne Police Department. “We got called to the gas station, have an individual obviously suffering from gunshot wounds. (We) didn’t know if he was able to drive himself there.”

“Holgate, again, we get called (from someone) hearing a gunshot and someone calling for help. We’re having to investigate it from the beginning,” Joyner said. “Certainly gangs and drugs are responsible for the lion’s share. I don’t think anybody would argue that point.”

To get to the bottom of the why, Joyner said Fort Wayne police will reach out to county, state and national law enforcement for resources.

To say what it would take to stop the killing, is a loaded answer, said Virgil Tharp, executive director of My Brother’s Keeper, a college-oriented youth group that meets at The Summit in Fort Wayne. “There are so many different variables.”

He counsels about 100 boys in the group who come from 18 different schools. Many of them attend Miami Middle School, where Tharp is an assistant administrator.

The problem is not just gangs, Tharp said, adding that he wishes it was just gangs.

“In gangs, you have a hierarchy,” Tharp explained. “You can’t just do anything.”

He agrees with Allen County Councilwoman Sharon Tucker, D-1st, who represents the southeast portion of the city and who ruled out gang behavior in favor of cliques – people who might specialize in one thing such as robbery or selling drugs.

Then one set of people goes against another set of people, Tharp said.

“It’s unfortunate we can’t find another way to solve our differences because it does have a bad effect on our community,” Tucker said.

Rif’s death has shocked the Muslim Burmese community, said Ye Win Latt, founder and secretary of the Burmese Muslim Education and Community Center on Seddlemeyer Avenue.

Latt was on his way to visit Rif’s family Wednesday afternoon. The family was planning to follow the Muslim custom of burying their dead the same day, Latt added.

The community suffered a similar experience in September 2015 with the shooting death of Masadid Ma, who was found shot in his car at apartments in the 6000 block of Salisbury Drive, Latt said.

“People came away from all the violence,” Latt said. “Getting back into this violence, it is really sad, especially since this is teenage boys.

“We don’t really know why this is happening. It’s definitely unsafe.”