Gun violence in Roanoke continues to increase; many cases have limited cooperation from witnesses

Published: Aug. 31, 2021 at 6:36 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The last few days have been busy in the Star City for the police department, but the incidents themselves are not what’s most problematic.

“When you have the incidents that happen, and you’re not getting information enough to further it right there, it takes the investigators a whole lot longer, that is not the only case they have so they’re working other cases,” said Deputy Chief Eric Charles.

These cases also pile up for the city’s lead prosecutor, Don Caldwell. His office depends on witness testimony and he often knows whether he will get that from initial police reports. So far this year there have been 48 gun-related incidents. Last year at this time, there were 36, which means there’s been a 33-percent increase.

“What we’ve dealt with here for the last few years is that it will say, witnesses did not cooperate or are not cooperating or it will say, which is even more concerning, that the very victim who was shot, is not cooperating,” said Caldwell.

That cooperation goes a long way, especially in the chain of events that lead to an offender going before a judge.

“The officer on the street makes a probable cause determination, the magistrate makes a probable cause determination, the general district judge makes a probable cause determination, the grand jury makes a probable cause determination, but the jury or judge in circuit court is deciding beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Caldwell.

According to Caldwell, it’s relatively easy to place a charge, but that charge will not move forward unless there’s evidence to back it.

“The goal of the police, and the goal of my office, is to try to focus on the case we think we can prove beyond reasonable doubt,” said Caldwell.

While cooperation is key, so is seeing fewer cases.

“The incidents usually do slow down once you get into the fall and winter. It usually trends that way but only time will tell,” said Charles.

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