Jacinda called me Tuesday in response to our recent radio commercial requesting people to submit their story ideas.  She told me of a shooting.  One of the many blighted homes littered across the city was coming down.  Neighbors stood on their front porches watching the monstrosity being ripped away from its foundation.  They looked on with relief and gratitude.  At one point, one of the workers expressed his surprise at the support.  He told nearby listeners of an incident where an inspector was shot twice in the back sending him to the hospital.  Jacinda told me how confused she was by this.  How could anyone be anything other than happy and grateful when seeing this litter being plucked up from our neighborhoods?  How could anyone be so angry at these efforts that they would fire two bullets into a worker for the city?  I shared in that confusion, and so I went looking for answers.  Jacinda, citizens of Flint, this is what I found.

According to Douglas Weiland, Executive Director for the Genesee County Land Bank, there was an incident involving a worker while he was inspecting a home on the north side for asbestos.  “About a week ago a contractor working for the Land Bank was shot while doing environmental remediation at a house on McLellan Street.  This was not a Land Bank employee and he was carrying a weapon”, wrote Weiland in an email earlier this week.  “Land Bank employees do not carry weapons.”

There were two assailants.  One distracted the victim and gained knowledge of his weapon.  The other attacked the victim, stole his gun, and shot him.  To Mr. Weiland’s knowledge, the gun was all that was taken.  “If he hadn’t been carrying a weapon, there’s a good chance that none of this would have happened.”

The Lank Bank, its employees, and its contractors are concerned about the situation.  Weiland said, “We are working with the police to make them aware of where demo crews are working so the police can proactively have a higher level of presence where workers are in the field.”  Addresses of the to-be-demoed homes are sent regularly to keep police up to date.  The Blue Badge program is also directing their efforts to involve private citizens in crime patrols around the work sites.

A certain element of power seemed to have been the motivation of this particular, seemingly isolated event.  “Shootings occur in Flint almost daily.  It’s nothing new.  We’ve had a thousand demos in the last six months and this is the only incident.”  People are not disagreeable with the cleanup.   When crews show up to a work site, they typically get two reactions says Weiland.  The first is of thankfulness resulting in offerings of water and encouragement.  The second is a wary and suspicious reaction leading to a request for credentials.   So now, with the increased presence of the police and Blue Badge bearers, the fight against blight continues.

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