Wewoka gang violence shuts down everyday life; scope larger than made public
The central Oklahoma town of Wewoka has seen an unprecedented spike in gang violence, and the public is calling officials' communication about the ongoing violence into question.
The town of just over 3,000 has seen 10 "instances of gun violence" in the past six weeks, according to official records. This includes shooting at a house, shooting in front of a house, or homicides.
Seminole Lighthorse Police confirmed in a statement Friday that it was investigating "several major crimes" in the city, and that the targets are "known associates" of one of two gangs. District Attorney Erik Johnson said one of the gangs is called the Savage Boys.
Johnson said he’s met with the FBI, ATF and Bureau of Indian Affairs on the matter. He expects results over the next month.
"Some of the investigations are going to be very fruitful, and I think there’s going to be a roundup of a number of individuals who are causing these problems," he said.
Cary Robinson, who's lived in Wewoka since he was born in 1959, said he hasn't seen violence even close in three and a half decades.
Seminole Producer newspaper editor Ken Childers says he's noticed frustration in the community with how local officials have addressed the ongoing violence. The newspaper has only been able to confirm three shootings in Wewoka over the past two months.
Childers specifically mentioned the city's Sorghum Festival, which was also cancelled. Organizers said the cancellation was due to weather, but Childers said the city manager told him it was because of legitimate concerns about violence.
"There had to be something big brewing for that event to be canceled, because that brings thousands, tens of thousands, literally tens of thousands, of people to the town. And I don’t know how many thousands of dollars in tax revenue, but it’s a big deal," he said.
Wewoka Public Schools also cancelled in-person instruction on Friday due to the ongoing violence.
The violence prompted Blessed Rock Freewill Baptist Church pastor Joe Ward to give his congregants a "code word" he'll say from the pulpit if he sees an intruder at the front door.
"Unless they're told otherwise, they're going to be hitting the floor and getting out of view of whoever's coming in," Ward said.
"Everyone's kind of in a cautious state, trying to go about our daily lives, but being cautious in what we're doing," Robinson said.
Robinson encouraged anyone afraid to go about their lives in Wewoka to reach out to members of the community.
"There are people who will try to help you through that," he said. "You don't have to face it alone."