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Las Vegas police, volunteers reach out to neighborhoods touched by violence

Police officers reached out to residents in two Las Vegas neighborhoods Saturday — hoping for leads to crack a year-old unsolved murder case in one and to quell fears about recent violence in the other.

At both, Metropolitan Police Department officers, along with church volunteers, strived to strengthen community ties and develop lines of communication between police and residents.

In the morning, officers teamed with members of the community seek new leads in an unsolved east valley homicide.

Javier Ortiz-Hernandez, 34, was shot and killed in his east valley neighborhood on Sept. 17, 2015. He and his brother were working on a car when a man opened fire on two people who were driving a motorcycle near them.

Ortiz-Hernandez and his brother were hit, as well as one person who was riding the motorcycle. All three were hospitalized, and Ortiz later died from his wounds.

A year later, Ortiz-Hernandez’s brother spoke to Metro officers and volunteers before they recanvassed the area, near Hollywood Boulevard and Carey Avenue, where Ortiz-Hernandez was shot.

“We have to put this guy in jail,” he said, after thanking the group in Spanish and English. He said the support from the Metropolitan Police Department and the community has been very important to him and his family.

This is the second community canvassing event Metro has held on this scale.

“Any time we have a homicide in our valley is tragic, but when you’re talking about innocent bystanders it’s different,” said Metro officer Jose Hernandez, who supervised the event.

Metro reached out to volunteers who had helped with previous projects, including addiction recovery and faith-based organizations. They split into groups and knocked on almost 400 doors, handing out fliers and asking residents to contact police if they had any information about the shooting.

“We want people to know that we’re out here for peace,” said Chris Carter, a volunteer with the Victory Outreach Ministry. “Metro is here to help, not here to hurt.”

Metro Capt. James LaRochelle said the event was about more than just finding new leads.

“This is really an event for solidarity. This is about tamping down fear of violence in the community,” he said. According to LaRochelle, communities that are involved in solving homicides have lower homicide rates.

OUTREACH EVENT AT APARTMENT COMPLEX

Hours later, officers from the Bolden Area Command held a community outreach event, with food, kids games and entertainment, at the Avery Park Apartment Complex at 2200 N. Torrey Pines Drive. A Sept. 6 shooting incident at the central valley apartment complex took the lives of two men inside a car in the parking lot of the complex.

“By being here and establishing a relationship with the folks who live in this area, we establish lines of communication,” Metro Capt. Robert Plummer said. “We have that dialogue and we talk about things that are affecting the communities. We care.”

While he had no official update on the shooting, Plummer noted police have promising leads and hope to have a resolution soon.

Like the first outreach event, the second one also involved volunteers from Victory Outreach, which partnered with Metro for to put on about 10 events throughout the valley this year.

Victory Outreach senior pastor Armando Garcia said such efforts help connect with the community, “letting them know that if they need anything we are here.”

Metro officer Regina Coward, who is also a member of the Victory Outreach congregation, praised the partnership for bridging “the gap between the community, the church and the police.”

“By using the connections together, we have become a strong force,” said Coward, who works in community outreach with Metro.

The efforts brought reassurance to at least two residents of the complex.

Susan Probert Jr., who’s lived in the complex for a year, was afraid after hearing of the shooting, but now has new hope. “This event has shown me that people do care for us and they do want to help us,” she said.

Vanessa Buchanan said she has lived in the complex for three years but has lived in the area for almost 30 years. “I have never seen a change like this, ” she said of the recent violence. After the shooting, Buchanan said, she felt like it could have happened to her.

Saturday’s event, Buchanan said, gave her a sense of security because of Metro’s presence.

“If police elsewhere operated like Metro does, there wouldn’t be as many killings,” she said.

Contact Max Michor at mmichor@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @MaxMichor on Twitter. Contact Jessica Terrones at jterrones@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @JessATerrones on Twitter.

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