HELENA-WEST HELENA, Ark. — It’s been a rough week in Helena-West Helena after several shootings took the lives of two men.
Residents say they are tired of crime and senseless shootings plaguing their city.
“I left for several years. And I couldn’t believe this was our town when I came back,” said Lori Williams, a resident of 11 years.
Two new memorials now cover the streets in town — one for 20-year-old Jamarius Reese and the other for 24-year-old Donameka Ballard, both killed Friday, only an hour apart.
We spoke to family members of both victims but both declined to speak on camera due to the circumstances surrounding their deaths.
Police are still looking for three suspects connected to the crimes — all of them under the age of 25.
“These young kids get out here, I’ve seen them as young as 8 or 9 years old carrying guns through here,” Williams said.
Having been a shooting victim herself, Williams says she’s tired of hearing gunshots in her neighborhood.
“Those bullets do not come with a name engraved on them,” Williams said.
She says many times she does not feel safe in her own home. Just before midnight Friday night, Police Chief James Smith said there was another shooting on North Sixth Street where two men walked into the hospital in non-critical condition.
Even while we were doing our interview, an officer circled our location four times.
“This is Phillips County, Arkansas, and we are a laughing stock in the entire state,” Williams said.
Williams says she refuses to continue to feel like a prisoner in her own home but it’s going to take people in the community to move things forward.
“I know there are still many more good people out here, and the few that are causing all the problems, and it’s time for our citizens to stand up and be united. Not just in our city but in our entire county.”
Williams says she is putting together a crime meeting Thursday night at 5:30 at the Phillips County Community College in the community room. She encourages community members to come out to share their concerns with local and state leaders.