Fort Wayne NAACP, Urban League report joint success on violence in Black Community

| December 28, 2016
Eric Hackley and NAACP President Larry Gist.

Eric Hackley and NAACP President Larry Gist.

Interview with Larry Gist, president of Fort Wayne Branch NAACP

By Eric D. Hackley

ERIC HACKLEY: Concerning the issue of black on black violence, what exactly happened between you and the Allen County Prosecutor’s Office?

LARRY GIST: During this past summer, we challenged the prosecutor for failing to do her job.  Since there had been no arrests in recent homicides, we questioned the prosecutor and said she was not doing her job.  Soon after our complaint, people were arrested and charged.  Even though we had one case that went to trial, the result was a hung jury.  But, they got the opportunity to retry that personal again.

Here in the past couple days, the police arrested two young men that recently killed a young man whom they admitted was the wrong person.  So, we intend to keep our community pressure up so that the prosecutor can continue doing what they’re supposed to do, and maybe some of these criminals out here and others doing these murderous acts will cease because they now know they can’t get away with it!

Before our activism, the prosecutor’s offices had been lax in arresting these folks.  Now that we’ve put our community focus on them, we are letting the prosecutor’s office and criminals both know we’re not going to stand for these unsolved acts of violence any longer.

HACKLEY: Are you requesting more effort from the police?

GIST: The police are doing and did their job.  The police department has presented all the necessary information to the prosecutor’s office.  Now it’s up to the prosecutor to say to the police department, “go out and arrest these individuals.”  But in the past, the police have suggested, “we got enough evidence to charge these people.”  But it’s up to the prosecutor to say “we’re gonna take the case.”  And that’s where the prosecutor’s office has been failing us.  That’s why some of these criminals were continuing to walk the streets and be able to commit more murders.

HACKLEY: How do you stimulate the residents to be more helpful?

GIST: Well you know we’ve opened our doors along with the Fort Wayne Urban League so that people don’t have to go to the police department to share their information on criminal activity.  Some people are fearful about visiting the police department and being questioned.  So, people want to be able to come and go, and they don’t want to feel pressured by the police for whatever reason.  So, the Fort Wayne NAACP and Urban League have opened our doors so the prosecutor and the police officers can come to our facilities and conduct their interviews with residents who want to maintain their privacy.

We often hear that our people are concerned about the “no snitching code.”

People are just fearful of retaliation.  It is not because they don’t want to tell police officers what’s going on—they don’t want anyone to retaliate against them or their family.  That’s where the fear factor comes in.  But, you know we gotta get these criminals off the street! We can’t let them continue because it might be your family that’s going to be next. Then you’d be wanting someone to tell them who murdered your child!  Or your sister, brother, father, aunt or uncle.

HACKLEY: As far as you know, what’s at the root of all this crime?

GIST: I can’t say what cause is.  But, through my investigation, a lot of it is gang related. You know domestic crimes are solved almost the very next day.  But those doing the drive-by shoot-’em-ups, those are the cases where few people are coming forward with useful information.

HACKLEY: For citizens who are who have witnessed criminal activity, and know who did what to who, how can you be reached?

GIST: I can be reached at the Fort Wayne Branch NAACP at (260) 421-2836, and all conversations are confidential.

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Category: Civil Rights, Community, Crime & Safety, Local

About the Author ()

Eric Hackley is a veteran independent journalist, television show host and producer focusing largely on history, particularly family history in the black community. His award-winning public access television shows have featured a host of local and national icons. Hackley can be contacted at

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