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Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia seeks state, local help in dealing with gun violence

Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia during a press conference at city hall on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2023.
Adam Frenier
Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia during a press conference at city hall on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2023.

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One suspect has been arraigned on murder charges, after a shootout in broad daylight Wednesday in Holyoke, Massachusetts, critically injured a woman sitting on a nearby bus and claimed the life of her baby.

Alejandro Ramos, 22, of Holyoke, pleaded not guilty to murder in Holyoke District Court Thursday. A second suspect, Johnluis Sanchez, 30, also of Holyoke, is expected to be arraigned when his condition allows. The Hampden District Attorney’s office said both could be facing more charges in the future.

Holyoke Police Chief David Pratt said a third suspect is believed to be still at large as of Thursday afternoon.

The shooting took place on Sargeant Street Wednesday
afternoon. It is believed three male suspects were involved in an altercation and that a stray bullet struck the female victim on the bus, according to the DA's office.

The woman was taken to a local hospital, where her baby was delivered, but did not survive.

A day after the shooting, Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia was visibly shaken while speaking about the tragedy at a press conference. He said he spent time with the father of the child at the hospital following the incident.

“I couldn't think of anything else to do except to be there and care, to try to convey the love and support of a city stunned by the unspeakable,” he said, having to pause several times to compose himself.

The first-term mayor also indicated he has had enough with violent crime in the city and the tragedy was the final straw. He said after consulting with Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey, he is working quickly with the city’s police department to
come up with a plan to deal with gun-related violence and other crime.

“It will strengthen surveillance and enforcement on our streets,” he said. “And to give you a sense of what I'm referring to, these ideas could include things like foot and bike patrol and traffic patrol and citywide cameras, and also a special assignment detail task force solely focused on tackling criminal activity.”

This move comes just one day after Garcia and Pratt held a press conference to urge residents to call the police when they hear gunfire. The call to action came after a report found that the ShotSpotter system in the city detected a cumulative 454 rounds fired but Pratt said the city got only 14 calls to 9-1-1 reporting those potential shootings.

Garcia said the public safety plan will require additional funding, which will need to be approved by the city council. He once again urged residents to communicate with police.

“Watch what's happening in your neighborhoods,” he urged residents. "Call, text if you see something that you know is not right. Work together with your neighbors and demand the expectation you want for your neighborhoods and for your

Garcia also tried to strike an optimistic tone about Holyoke, despite the negative attention the incident has brought to the city.

“I tell you this from the depths of my grief that I still... I still have as much hope and vision and faith in the future of Holyoke as that young woman on the PVTA bus....had for her baby,” he said, his voice again cracking.

Adam joined NEPM as a freelance reporter and fill-in operations assistant during the summer of 2011. For more than 15 years, Adam has had a number stops throughout his broadcast career, including as a news reporter and anchor, sports host and play-by-play announcer as well as a producer and technician.

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