'Our citizens deserve a safe place to live in,' Huntington mayor says

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, flanked by law enforcement officers and officials, talks at a news conference Tuesday about the recent wave of violence in the city. (WCHS/WVAH)

Huntington city leaders vowed at a news conference Tuesday afternoon to keep citizens safe and said they are doing their best to cope with a recent wave of violence that is being investigated by an understaffed police department.

"We're doing everything in our power to keep them safe," Mayor Steve Williams said of the community. "Every person in this community has understandable angst over what has been happening of late. We're all concerned and our citizens deserve a safe place to live in."

The most recent incident – a homicide -- occurred about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday in the 1100 block of 16 Street near a gas station, the Huntington Mart. A suspect has been taken into custody.

During the news conference, members of the city of Huntington, Huntington Police Department, Cabell County Sheriff's Office, West Virginia State Police, Marshall Police Department, Cabell County Schools and the Cabell County Prosecutor's Office were present.

"We all stand in solidarity and remain committed to the safety of our community," Williams said. "Numerous times I've stated, the citizens of our community are not only protected by a world-class police department, but we're also protected at the local level, county level, state level and through Marshall University."

Capt. Hank Dial with Huntington police said Tuesday's suspect was arrested within hours of the shooting thanks to help from the community and the several law enforcement agencies that were present. Dial said the department is stretched thin with only 89 officers. Dial said three more officers will be hired in January.

Dial said it’s been a "taxing couple of months." He said State Police pitched in manpower to get the suspect in the most recent murder. He said Huntington police need smore police officers.

The city announced there will be a special City Council meeting at 5 p.m. Wednesday to discuss an administrative action plan.

Investigators have not said whether the recent wave of violence is connected, but they have not ruled it out. Huntington has had 18 homicides so far this year. Police have responded to at least three shootings in less than a week.

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