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In wake of triple homicide, Montgomery mayor calls for harsher penalties for violent offenders

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — In the wake of a triple homicide Tuesday night at a grocery store in Montgomery, Mayor Steven Reed called on state lawmakers to strengthen laws for repeat offenders convicted of violent crimes, and pledged that he would spare no resources identifying those responsible.

Shortly before 9 p.m. Tuesday, Montgomery Police responded to a reported shooting at Tienda Los Hermanos, a Hispanic-owned grocery store off of Troy Highway in southeast Montgomery. 

George Elijah Jr., 50, and Daniel Lopez, 20, suffered fatal gunshot wounds and were pronounced dead at the scene. Romero Lopez, 43, died after being transported to a nearby hospital.

On Wednesday at the Montgomery Police Department, Reed called the incident “tragic.”

“Two family members, as well as a person there just doing a little shopping, were caught in the crossfire,” Reed said.

“It’s something we will not accept, it’s something that we will not tolerate, (and) we will make sure that what took place last night on Troy Highway does not happen again. We’ll (also) make sure that those who are behind this are held accountable and are brought to justice.”

Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed addresses members of the press during a press conference Wednesday at the Montgomery Police Department.

Reed went on to say that state, local and federal resources were already being expended to investigate the crime and told the city’s Hispanic community – who have faced an increased number of break ins in recent months – that city leaders “were not going to stand for this.”

Alabama Daily News asked Reed more broadly if there were any legislative changes that state lawmakers could enact that could help reduce violent crime not only in Montgomery, but across the state.

“We’re always looking for ways to make some of these laws stronger and give them a little bit more strength in terms of making sure that people who are repeat violent offenders are put where they belong,” he told ADN.

Recently, Reed has proposed other remedies to improve Montgomery’s violent crime rate, which is 54% higher than the national average, and significantly higher than the state’s rate.

Less than 24 hours before Wednesday’s press conference, Reed, during a Montgomery City Council meeting, addressed a packed room of city residents, most of whom had attended out of concern over the city’s violent crime.

At the meeting, Reed gave a presentation outlining a community violence intervention program that had been enacted in other large cities with high crime rates such as Baltimore, MD and St. Louis, MO. While the program would cost the city $6 million, Reed noted that the program had proven successful in cities that adopted it, WSFA reported.

Reed also took fire at Alabama’s permitless carry law, which was carried by Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, in the Senate, and went into effect last year. More specifically, Reed called for the law to be repealed, something he argued would make it easier to get guns out of the hands of violent offenders.

At the Wednesday press conference, members and advocates for the Hispanic community were also in attendance, one of which, Lizette Colorado with Estrella Radio, pressed Reed on what she argued were low police response times when it came to emergency calls from the Hispanic community.

“How can the Latino community feel safe when they’ve reported some stuff, and the media doesn’t report it, or it takes 40 to 50 minutes for an officer to get there?” Colorado said. 

“It had to get to this point for us to have some type of communication on what we can do to protect the Latino community,” she continued.

John Hall, acting chief for the Montgomery Police Department, said that slow police response times were not an issue isolated to any particular community. 

While he said his department was actively working to improve response times, Hall added that in the interim, residents could be best helped by providing as much information as possible to dispatchers.

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