DES MOINES, Iowa -- "I wish that things would just go back to where...you don't have to worry about the kids being out in the street or anything or just worry about sitting in your house and a stray bullet just taking you out. I mean, times have gone, times have really gone."
Joe Thomas and his mother have lived in this neighborhood for decades, and he says over that time, things have changed for the worse.
"Back when I grew up, we used these (our fists) to settle our arguments or anything, you know, and when it was said and done there was no jail time or anything because, you know, it was just a fight with a fist, but now people are quick to pick up a gun because they're cowards. I mean that's what I think," said Thomas.
At 9:24 on Wednesday night, police responded to the intersection of Hutton Street and Cleveland Avenue after gunshots rang out. The cops found a red Ford Mustang in the driveway of 1348 Hutton, with five bullet holes in it. The front glass door of the home was shattered, and a hole was found in the door jamb. Twenty shell casings were found in the roadway and grassy area nearby.
Earlier in the day, police were dispatched on a report of shots fired around Penn and Washington, before being directed to East 14th and Cleveland, where they found seven shell casings in the northbound lanes.
"We've obviously got a problem in that area and I would say that's probably an understatement," said Des Moines Police Sergeant Paul Parizek. "There's definitely some kind of activity up there and somebody or something that's drawing this type of gunfire to that neighborhood. So, that's where we're going to focus some of our efforts."
The police report says a man who lives at the house where the Mustang was parked--and who is a known active gang member--was walking out the front door when he heard "pop, pop." He looked up and he could see a "black hoodie." The report states the man then checked himself for injuries before running westbound behind the house, through the alley toward University Avenue.
"The scary thing is that as summer approaches and the violence that we're already experiencing, it's only going to escalate," said concerned community member Matt Vance, whose sister lives in the neighborhood where the shootings happened. "I think we need to get out in our community, do more. I think our community leaders need to step up. It's to the point now, I think our churches even need to get involved," said Vance.