ROCHESTER, N.Y. — A child has died following the latest act of violence in the city of Rochester. Now city leaders are making a familiar plea to the community, asking members of the public to step up and talk about what they know.
According to Rochester police, officers responded to the area of Atkinson and Reynolds streets around 7 p.m. Monday for the detection of multiple gunshots from the ShotSpotter system. When they arrived, officers reported finding a 12-year-old boy who had died from at least one gunshot wound to the upper body.
Police identified the 12-year-old victim on Tuesday as Juan Lopez, a seventh grader at the Benjamin Franklin Educational Campus on Norton Street.
The RPD says while on scene, officers were alerted to a second victim nearby on Prospect Street. They say the 16-year-old boy was also suffering from at least one gunshot wound to the upper body. Officers and a citizen applied a tourniquet and provided care to the victim until he was transported to URMC by ambulance.
The 16-year-old's wounds are serious, but he is in stable condition and is expected to recover, according to police. However, RPD Chief David Smith says his injuries are life-altering.
Police believe the two victims were walking down the street when at least one suspect opened fire on them, police say. Investigators are not yet able to say whether the suspect was on foot or in a vehicle.
The aunt and uncle of Lopez, who did not wish to be identified by name, are struggling to understand how their nephew could become a homicide victim.
“He was loved by a lot of people, a lot of people knew him," said Juan's aunt.
“He was a good kid,” said Juan’s uncle. “You know he was going around starting trouble with nobody. He was very friendly with everybody. He was just 12, going on 13 you know, goes to school, he was respectful to everybody.”
Family members gathered at the scene of the crime, consoling each other and seeking answers, as are police.
During a news conference on Tuesday, Chief Smith and Mayor Malik Evans both called for members of the community to come forward with what they know about this incident.
"We know there are people out there who know who did this last night," said Chief Smith. "We know there are people out there who have information about what happened. All too often members of our community simply look the other way and accept the violence around them. No more, this has to stop."
Mayor Evans said the city can increase patrols, bring in the U.S. Marshalls and increase community outreach, but says it will not help without the assistance of the people who live in these neighborhoods.
"I do know this, the streets talk, the streets watch," said Mayor Evans. "And someone knows why this 12- and 16-year-old were out late last night, late in the evening, around 7 o'clock near Reynolds Street, and what happened there, and they need to come forward."
Chief Smith says more than 700 firearms have been taken off the street by officers so far this year and more than 550 people have been arrested for crimes related to illegal guns. But he says it's not enough.
"The police department cannot do this by ourselves," Smith said. "We cannot arrest our way out of this. Everyone must do their part to fix this plague of violence across our city."
Mayor Evans says most of the violence is not happening by accident and that in most cases it is because people have chosen to pick up a gun.
He and Chief Smith are urging people to call 911, CrimeStoppers or to even call the mayor's office directly and leave anonymous information about what they know.
"This is shameful, pitiful and embarrassing on all of us as a society when we are having young children die and they're not going to war,” Evans said. “But they’re babies. 12-year-old kid. It has to stop.”
The family of Juan Lopez has doubts people from the community will come forward.
"Nobody’s going say anything," said Juan's uncle.
"They’re not going talk,” Juan’s aunt said. “Because they don't care about our pain.”
“Now we’re here giving you a press conference, but I can tell you all the press conferences in the world are not going to stop this,” Evans said. “So anybody who gets up and tells you they got a solution for it, they don’t. And anyone that gets up and has press conferences and wants to march, I don't want to see the press conference and marches. I want people to tell me who killed this kid?”
Lopez would have celebrated both his birthday and Christmas on Dec. 25.
The death of this child marks the city's 74th homicide of 2022.
Rochester City School District Superintendent Carmine Peluso released a statement Tuesday on the fatal shooting of Juan Lopez:
Our District is in mourning again, and I am struggling to find words that articulate the anger I feel as our community loses another child to violence in our streets. With this senseless tragedy, classmates have lost a friend, parents have lost a child, and we have lost another beacon of hope for the future of our City. So much promise lost!
I am sickened by the violence and how it continues to plague us. We need the community to step up. If you know something, say something. As this tragedy has the power to affect all of us, we have the power to stop the killing of our children.
I extend my deepest condolences to Juan’s family. He was loving and kind; his classmates and teachers will never forget him.