Springfield’s first homicide underscores increased gun violence

Springfield’s first homicide of the year occurred early Saturday when two men were shot, one fatally, in the 500 block of South Clairmont Avenue.

Jeffery Rife, 36, and Ronald McElroy, 43, both of Springfield, were found shot after crews were dispatched around 3:40 a.m. to the 500 block of Clairmont Avenue on the city’s east side. They were taken to Springfield Regional Medical Center, where Rife succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead at the hospital, police said.

RELATED: As Springfield violence climbs, 2 sides battle different fronts

McElroy suffered one or more gunshot wounds but his injuries were not life-threatening, police said.

Detectives were still working Saturday night to locate a suspect.

RELATED: Murders drop in Springfield, but gun violence is up

Residents in the normally quiet neighborhood were awakened by the gunfire.

“I heard a loud noise, wasn’t really sure what it was, heard it again and then recognized it as gunshots. … There were several, at least eight that we had initially heard,” said Carlisa Parker, a longtime resident.

Police told nearby residents the shooting was believed to be an isolated incident, but many said they were left in fear and are concerned for the safety of police officers and others in the community.

“It’s very shocking and it’s very scary and it’s extremely unusual for something like that to happen in this neighborhood,” Parker said. “We’ve been here for 22 years and nothing like this has ever occurred here.”

The killing underscores what law enforcement said is a pressing need to curb gun violence in Springfield, which this year has injured multiple people but had not led to any homicides until this weekend.

Five people were slain in Springfield in 2016, down from a dozen killings a year earlier.

However, the city last year saw a significant increase in aggravated assaults, which often are tied to gun violence.

Police recorded more than 20 aggravated assaults through the first two months of 2017, including multiple gunshot victims who were lucky to survive.

“There are still people reaching for a handgun to solve a problem,” police Chief Steve Moody told this news organization earlier this month.


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