Tensions running high at Waco apartment complex following fatal shooting

A Waco police officer keeps an eye on the Lakewood Villas Apartments Tuesday after a double-homicide shooting late Monday night.

A 17-year-old Waco ISD student and a 20-year-old man are dead after gunfire erupted in the Lakewood Villas Apartment Community late Monday night, sparking tension and anxiety for neighbors who worried Tuesday about what’s next at the troubled complex.

Police identified Tyus Sneed, 17, and Keenan Hubert, 20, as the deceased.

Two other men, ages 20 and 22, were rushed to the hospital by ambulance with unspecified injuries. Their conditions were not available at press time.

The deaths mark the fourth and fifth homicides of 2011 in Waco. Only five homicides were reported in all of 2010.

Little information about what transpired at 1601 Spring St. was available late Tuesday, in part because witnesses were not cooperative with authorities Monday evening, Waco police spokesman Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said.

“Information was very limited. At the get-go, it was almost nonexistent,” he said. “No one at the scene would talk to us. Information is trickling in at this point, but it’s still in the early stages.”

About 11:20 p.m. Monday, police were called to the scene after multiple shots were fired in the area. Some neighbors, who did not give their names for fear of retaliation, said they heard as many as 20 shots.

One woman said she had just arrived home from work and was walking to the mailbox when she heard the gunfire. She dove between two parked cars for cover until it was safe to emerge, she said.

Later, she discovered that her nephew, Sneed, was among the casualties. All four of the men who were shot were either standing near or sitting inside one vehicle, according to police.

No descriptions of the suspects were available late Tuesday, but authorities think more than one assailant was involved, Swanton said.

High tension

Neighbors Tuesday described chaos in the aftermath of the shooting.

Police, too, reported that “numerous officers were required to maintain security due to the volatile crowd” for nearly two hours after the initial report was made. Officers said at least four fights broke out in the crowd while investigators worked the scene.

Midmorning Tuesday, a lone squad car remained in the parking lot, as an officer kept a watchful eye on the grounds of Lakewood Villas.

But tension was apparent as clusters of neighbors gathered in breezeways, on the lawns and porches, glancing around nervously and keeping a steady gaze on slow-moving cars.

Several said they feared retaliation if they talked about shootings at the complex, or the events of Monday evening. Others said they could not risk being viewed as a “snitch.”

Violent history

Monday night’s incident is at least the third shooting reported at the complex in the last six months.

An altercation between two men in the complex’s parking lot led to a 23-year-old bystander getting shot in the face and shoulder in October. And about three weeks ago, a 62-year-old woman was shot in her right leg by a stray bullet after an altercation between two men.

Neighbors said hearing shots echo through the complex’s courtyard is not unusual. One woman said that in her monthlong stay at an apartment there, she has been forced to “hit the floor” at least three times.

Many of the residents expressed anger toward law enforcement, as well as the management of the complex, which does not employ security guards. The area is “well-known” to Waco police, Swanton said.

“(Officers) go through there as often as they can,” he said. “It is patrolled significantly. The officers that work the beat know the problems in that neighborhood and that apartment complex.”

Swanton said that the apartment management should consider hiring a private security firm to supplement law enforcement efforts.

He also said the community plays a vital role in crime prevention and in resolving cases like these.

“The right thing to do is to step up and do what you can to put a person or persons (that did this) behind bars,” he said. “People are reluctant to get involved because of fear and intimidation or a ‘don’t care’ attitude. . . . People need to step up and take responsibility for the neighborhood.”

At the complex, a woman who identified herself as the manager declined comment Tuesday morning.

Shooting victims

Meanwhile, the families of the two men killed said they were devastated by their losses, and expressed frustration about uncooperative witnesses and the consequences of “street life.”

Sneed’s family described the 17-year-old as a bright student who recently earned a spot on the honor roll.

He had a good sense of humor, and enjoyed “cutting up,” they said.

Sneed attended University High School until recently, when he was transferred to Waco Independent School District’s alternative campus, WISD spokesman Dale Caffey said.

Family members said Tuesday that Sneed left the apartment that night to walk a friend home. They speculated that he may have run into Hubert, a friend of Sneed’s, on the way back.

“It’s sad because he wasn’t that kind of a kid,” said Tamika Calvin, his second cousin. “He wasn’t into gangs and drugs. I’m still in shock. I don’t know what to say — it’s just bad out here.”

She, along with other family members, expressed anger that “no one will say anything.”

“I know people might be scared for their life — but we’ve gotta work together,” Calvin said. “We’re just praying and hope the police don’t give up.”

At their South Waco home about four miles away from the complex, Hubert’s grandparents said they were struggling to plan a funeral for their grandson.

Monday night, 58-year-old Janice Matthews ate hot wings and watched television with her grandson before he left for the night. His last words to his grandparents were, “I love you,” she said.

“A couple of hours later, he was gone,” Janice Matthews said. “I just can’t believe it could happen like that.”

Hubert started living with them when he was 15, they said, after a rough upbringing that exposed him to adult problems early.

“When we got him, he was a tough character, but with a whole lot of love,” said Lonnie Matthews, 61. “He made a 180-degree turnaround. But the old lifestyle he came up under tugged on him all the time. He couldn’t break away.”

Despite the difficulties, they said Hubert was eyeing higher-education options and planning to soon take his test for a driver’s license. But that was cut short, they said.

“It’s the consequences of street life with young people,” Lonnie Matthews said. “I had high hopes for him. . . . I had seen change.”

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