What could be done to prevent more shootings on Austin’s 6th Street?

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Following a shooting that critically injured two women on Sixth Street early Monday morning — less than one month after a mass shooting on the same street — the Austin Police Association is highlighting weapons arrests in the city’s Entertainment District.

According to the APA, 10 people were arrested for illegally possessing firearms in that area alone Friday through Sunday nights.

“No telling how many other illegal firearms were in the area,” the police association said in a Facebook post.

In an interview with KXAN, APA President Ken Casaday described how so many weapons were found over the weekend.

“Bartenders flagging down our officers saying, ‘The guy leaving the bar just had a gun,’ or ‘Those two guys just got into a fight in front of our bar, and those guys had guns.'”

The Austin Police Association added in its post, “Our hard working police officers are doing their jobs. Now, we need the Travis County District Attorney and the County Attorney to prosecute these individuals that are bringing violence to our once beautiful city.”

Austin City Council Member Kathie Tovo, whose district includes the Sixth Street area downtown, posted a statement Monday saying:

“Early this morning, Sixth Street was again the scene of shootings resulting in very serious injuries for two women. My prayers are with the victims of this senseless act of violence for a full and completely recovery.

“Over the last several weeks, my staff and I have been reviewing recommendations for improving safety in our Downtown entertainment district. In the next month, I will be bringing forward a resolution directing our City Manager to respond to those recommendations. We can and must take further action to improve safety in our entertainment district and to reduce gun violence throughout our community.”

Tovo elaborated Tuesday on her plan to introduce a downtown safety resolution later this month.

Tovo says in both Monday’s case — and June’s mass shooting — there were plenty of police in the area.

“So the police presence alone was not enough to deter those acts of of gun violence,” Tovo said.

The District Nine Council Member will recommend that the city make a number of other changes in the Entertainment District. The changes, she says were recommended by consultants and city staff in studies done in 2009 and 2013, but they were never presented to council. She says those studies were done outside of the city, commissioned by others with business interests, however some who worked for the city were involved.

One of the recommendations is to reduce the amount of space people have to congregate.

“People are coming down there, including a lot of underage individuals are coming down there. They’re not going into the businesses, they’re just spending time on 6th Street,” Tovo said, adding that it can lead to fights and produce crime.

One of those ideas is adding more lighting.

“It’s my hope that really increasing the lighting along 6th Street could discourage those who are going down to Sixth Street to cause trouble and to do harm,” she said.

Tovo says another idea she may suggest is adding restaurant seating along the sidewalks could narrow the standing area.

“Until I read these reports, I wasn’t aware that some had pointed to the width of Sixth Street and the ability for that really to house a lot of a lot of crowds as a potential negative,” Tovo said.

She says experimenting with removing barricades on weekends so people can’t gather in the street may also be something for the city to try.

“That creates some potential challenges with all the pedestrians down there and the potential for accidents with so many cars,” Tovo said. “So, it’s likely it would have to be a phased approach.”

Casaday said he appreciates Tovo’s efforts to make the 6th Street area safer.

In addition, he said he’d like to see Austin’s juvenile curfew reinstated.

“I think that would help because we’re seeing a lot of juvenile activity,” Casaday said.

When Tovo presents her resolution to her fellow council members later this month, she says some of the changes should take effect right away and others would take longer because they’d need to be studied, first.

Police are asking for the public’s help to identify the suspects in Monday’s shooting, requesting information or videos from the incident. Anyone with information should call the Crime Stoppers tip line at 512-472-8477 (TIPS).

APD says several witnesses have been interviewed and the investigation is ongoing.

6th Street Mass Shooting

Last month, June 12, at least 13 people were injured and another was killed after a suspected gunman opened fire on East 6th in the early morning hours. Suspect De’Ondre White, 19, was arrested June 24 and charged with murder.

It’s believed that White acted alone in the incident, which began as spat between two rival groups of teens/young adults from the Killeen area.

Twenty-five year-old Douglas Kantor, who was visiting from Michigan, died from his injuries the following day. According to Kantor’s family, he was shot in through the abdomen, just below the rib cage.

“He suffered from the time of the injury until time of death, it was the most gruesome thing I could think to wish on someone,” said brother Nick Kantor. “It’s painful to discuss, but I think the public deserves to know what my brother suffered.”

Guns across Texas

Statewide, it will soon be legal for any Texan over the age of 21 to carry a firearm without a license or training. The “permitless carry bill” was signed into law last month by Governor Greg Abbott and goes into effect starting Sept. 1.

The law was hugely polarizing nationwide and locally.

Back in April, Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon said that while he supports the Second Amendment, he still believes permits need to be required to carry a concealed handgun.

“I want to be clear, this is not about the Second Amendment,” Chacon said. “It’s not about peoples’ right to lawfully carry a firearm — I’m very much in support of all those things. Carrying a powerful weapon is also a responsibility.”

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