MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. — Several deadly shootings across the city in just the span of a week now appear to be connected, the Muskegon County Prosecutor confirmed to FOX 17 Thursday.
County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson said the Major Case Task Force now investigating the shootings—which involves Michigan State Police and all other police agencies in the county—has reason to believe some of the same players are involved in each instance and authorities are 'very close' to making arrests.
“As you sit down and start to work on the timelines of the individuals who are involved, it’s starting to appear there’s some connection," Hilson said Thursday. “What we’re trying to do as investigators is put all those pieces together and start to establish a strong connection.”
Hilson is part of the task force. He wouldn't say specifically why investigators are led to believe the shootings are linked and wouldn't say whether it was gang related.
"I don’t know that there was a 'turf war' or a misunderstanding or conflict with individuals invading a certain person’s territory," he said, adding investigators are still developing a motive.
The shootings began early Sunday morning on Aug. 30 when four people were found shot outside East Park Manor. The shootings happened in the 600 block of Hovey Ave. around 2:30 a.m.
One of the victims, 20-year-old Thedrick Bryant, died from his injuries the next day, while another victim was released from the hospital the same day of the shooting. Hilson said the two other men injured remain in the hospital.
Hilson said the task force was activated by the Muskegon Heights Police Department following the Aug. 30 shooting.
On Sept. 4, the following Friday, 22-year-old Marquis Grider-Simms was found shot in the head in the area of Amsterdam and 9th Street in Muskegon Heights. He later died at the hospital.
The death of Grinder-Simms prompted Muskegon Catholic Central to ultimately cancel a football game scheduled for that same night against Muskegon Heights Academy.
Early the next morning, Darnell Leroy Byrd III was found dead in an alley near Morton Ave and Edgewood Elementary School in Muskegon Heights after being shot several times. Boyd was one of the victims who suffered minor injuries in the East Park Manor shooting and had been charged with possession of stolen ammunition before he was killed, Hilson told FOX 17.
"Obviously there’s no such thing as silver lining when you’re talking about a shooting or homicide, but certainly as things are unfolding I did take some comfort in knowing we didn’t have a random person or people running around and shooting people," Hilson said.
A woman was also grazed by a bullet following a shooting sometime Sept. 8, but Hilson said that incident isn't believed to be connected.
The string of violence comes roughly one month after Muskegon Heights was designated a "Secure City" by Michigan State Police, which provides the city with additional police resources on the ground and in the air.
“The ability to have these additional resources has been an asset to how far advanced the team is in their investigation," Hilson said.
Hilson said he continues to witness improved communication between the community and law enforcement which is aiding in the investigation, adding he remains confident in investigators being able to issue arrests warrants in the coming days.
“People are tired of having this happening in their neighborhoods, on their streets, they’re starting to fight back a little bit," he said.
The violence has even inspired people living on the fringe of the community to try to bring people together through a prayer rally scheduled this coming weekend.