Drive-By Shooting Death in an Area Supported by the City of Dallas

Dallas has invested in the Highland Hills neighborhood

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The City of Dallas has made investments at the corner of Bonnie View Road and Simpson Stuart Road where a 57-year-old man was the innocent victim of a drive-by shooting.

Police said the man, Morris Martin, was in the parking lot of the Hi Mart store Wednesday night as people in two vehicles drove southbound on Bonnie View Road shooting at each other.

The bullets killed Martin and wounded a woman.

Another drive-by shooting Nov. 24 wounded two other people at the same store.

The City of Dallas invested $200,000 years ago to help open the Hi Mart with the requirement that it would sell fresh fruit and vegetables in an area were no large grocery stores would make an investment.

“It was a food desert,” said Dallas City Council Member Tennell Atkins.

Years later, the city invested $2.8 million to help open a full-service grocery store nearby in the Highland Hills neighborhood on Simpson Stuart Road.

The city also recently built a new library on Bonnie View Road and transformed the old library into a city service center, where Atkins has a district office.  Fighting crime is part of the mission at the service center.

“Instead of going downtown, you come in the community, find out what’s going on,” Atkins said. “It’s more about getting the community more involved. It’s more about getting the police more involved.”

Visiting the new Highland Hills Library Thursday, LaPaca Jefferson said there are people in the community who could identify the criminals.

“The people in the neighborhood, they know what’s going on,” Jefferson said.

Jefferson is an uncle of Atatiana Jefferson who was killed by a Fort Worth Police officer earlier this year. But Jefferson is with a group called ‘I Think Solutions’ that promotes cooperation with the police.

“We can’t live nowhere without police officers so we have to learn to work with them. They’re not against us, they work for us,” Jefferson said.

His group also promotes other solutions to improve communities and reduce crime.

“We need opportunities out here. This is why people are angry. They’re poverty-stricken. They don’t have any opportunity,” Jefferson said.

Just blocks from Wednesday night’s crime scene on Simpson Stuart Road is Paul Quinn College.

“We want to be a resource to that community,” College President Michael Sorrell said.

The former college football field was turned into a farm that produces food for the area.

Sorrell said the college has invested many millions of dollars in upgrades at the campus in recent years. The first new building in 40 years is under construction now, a new dormitory and student center.

The school has partnership programs with Fortune 500 companies. It was recently named one of the most innovative colleges in the nation.

“There’s a reason why we’re considered one of the 5 most innovative colleges in America, and I think that’s a real important point to make, that here in Highland Hills, in the City of Dallas, in Southern Dallas, one of the 5 most innovative universities in America resides,” Sorrell said.  “I like where we are. I like what we’re doing. And I’m confident that the things that need to improve will improve.”

Sorrell said what is broken in Dallas right now did not happen overnight and fixing those things will take time, including the years of past neglect in Highland Hills.

“I personally know everyone involved right now in the decision-making process and I believe in them and I believe that they can get this right. I also know it’s incumbent on us as citizens to participate in that process,” Sorrell said.

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson has asked the city manager and police chief to submit a written plan by the end of the year for fighting violent crime with goals and timelines for results.

“I stand by the mayor that we need a plan,” Atkins said.

But Atkins said the plan will be challenging because each neighborhood in Dallas has different needs.

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