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Lawrence police, community leaders react to city's 3rd homicide in 2 weeks

Brad Allen executive director at Lawrence Public Library
Posted at 6:14 PM, Mar 07, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-07 19:59:22-05

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Lawrence's third homicide in two weeks happened in a public place, outside the Lawrence public library.

The violence isn't something residents and city leaders are used to.

Lawrence Police Chief Rich Lockhart said in a news conference on Thursday that the issues they come across — mental health crises, homelessness, addiction, illegal use of firearms — are countrywide problems that are hard to solve.

City leaders are looking at what is in their control to reduce violence.

The shooting that killed Vincent Walker, 39, at W 7th Street and Vermont Street on Wednesday didn’t happen at the Lawrence Public Library, but the staff and patrons still evacuated as a precaution. It happened right across the street.

"Here at the library, we take people's safety really seriously," said Brad Allen, executive director for the Lawrence Public Library.

Police have the shooting suspect in custody, Nicholas Beaver, 32, a Topeka resident. Police said he's been in Lawrence a short time.

This incident is now part of a growing community conversation about violence in Lawrence.

"We like to say all people are welcome," Allen said. "All behaviors are not welcome."

Due to arguments and disturbances outside and inside the library over the past year, the library is now leasing the green space and concrete areas outside the building so security can more broadly enforce its behavior policy.

"I will always be committed to being a space where everyone is welcome," Allen said. "We just need to figure out that mix of how we make sure that everybody, no matter who they are, feel safe when they walk in here."

Beaver was staying at the Lawrence Community Shelter. That’s how police tracked him down.

"We had an officer tell us about a call that occurred the previous night at our Lawrence community shelter where someone similar to the description of our suspect dropped a gun on the floor, and the staff called the police and he escaped before we got there," Lockhart said.

Following tips and evidence, Lockhart said they concluded that person was Beaver.

Despite three homicides in two weeks, Lockhart said overall crime in Lawrence was down last year.

He said they'll continue to work with community partners, like the city's homeless shelter.

James Chiselom, the shelter's director, said the partnership is important to make sure the people staying at the shelter and experiencing homelessness are safe.

"I know it's hard to believe it right now, but our downtown is safe," Lockhart said. "These things happen everywhere. They can happen everywhere but let's not let that stuff change our lives."