Little Rock police on Monday continued to investigate two weekend shootings that left three people dead and another person wounded.
The three slayings raise the city's total for the year to nine homicide victims. By this time last year, Little Rock had recorded 11 homicides and was on its way to its highest number of killings in more than a decade, according to figures maintained by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Despite the weekend bloodshed, preliminary police data show sizable drops in violent crime and property crime this year, as of March 12, compared with the same time frame last year.
The two most recent homicides came late Sunday night. Officers were dispatched on a report of a shooting at West 21st and South Oak streets around 10:38 p.m. Sunday and arrived to find a 2005 Mercedes-Benz 500 that had run off the street, according to a department release.
The vehicle had stopped between two houses in the 2100 block of South Oak Street, the release said. Inside the vehicle, police found shooting victims Nathan Sullivan, 22, of Little Rock and Cierria Onukwube, 21, of Jacksonville, according to the statement.
Sullivan died at the scene. The release said an ambulance took Onukwube to UAMS Medical Center and that she was listed in "extremely critical condition."
On Monday afternoon, Little Rock police spokesman Lt. Michael Ford reported that Onukwube had died.
Police did not name any suspects in the double homicide. The Mercedes-Benz where police found both victims belonged to Onukwube, a police report shows.
In the first homicide of the weekend, Little Rock police said they found a man fatally shot inside his vehicle at Boyle Park early Saturday.
Police were dispatched around 12:55 a.m. Saturday to 3101 Boyle Park Road on a report of a shooting that had just occurred, according to a news release from the department.
Officers found a vehicle in the street near the park's maintenance entrance, the release said. In the driver's seat, they found Charles Harris, 47, of North Little Rock with multiple gunshot wounds, according to the release.
Police also located a second victim, 64-year-old Rodney Gilstrap, according to the release. Gilstrap was treated at the scene, and a police report described his wound as a minor gunshot graze.
Gilstrap, according to the release, told police that he and Harris were traveling through the park when unknown people in a vehicle began to shoot at them. Gilstrap told police that he fled when Harris' vehicle came to a stop.
As he fled, Gilstrap could see Harris slumped behind the wheel, the release says. Gilstrap could not give a description of the vehicle or suspects, but he said the other vehicle continued through the park, the department said.
Police did not name any suspects as of Monday afternoon.
Ford said no arrests have been made in any of the nine homicides this year.
Despite the weekend killings, violent crime is down in Little Rock this year, according to preliminary police data.
The preliminary data show 452 violent crimes occurred from the beginning of this year to March 12 -- a 27 percent decrease compared with the same time period last year. Violent crime includes homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
Property crime has also dropped, the data show. There was a 22 percent decrease in property crime from Jan. 1 to March 12 of this year, compared with the same time period last year, according to the preliminary data.
Property crime includes burglary, breaking and entering, larceny, theft and auto theft.
"Of course, we are happy to see a downward trend in crime," Ford said.
Ford said recent federal indictments on a variety of charges could be playing a role in the decrease in crime.
The U.S. attorney's office in Little Rock last month named 49 defendants listed in two complaints and 13 federal indictments. The office announced that 21 of those defendants were arrested on a single day in an operation that involved more than 250 agents and officers from agencies across the state.
Twelve-hour shifts for patrol officers could also be having an effect, Ford said. The department, which used to operate eight-hour shifts for patrol officers, now runs 12-hour shifts for those officers to provide more coverage, he said.
In 2017, Little Rock ended the year with 57 homicides, according to a data base maintained by the Democrat-Gazette.
On Monday, Ford said the department recorded 52 homicides in 2017. The homicide figures differ because Little Rock police no longer include justified and accidental homicides in their yearly homicide total.
A Section on 03/20/2018
Print Headline: Weekend shootings leave 3 deaths in LR