Written by Becca Habegger, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
Suspect's fiance Candy Harris, left, speaking Wednesday with KWWL reporter Becca Habegger, right
DUBUQUE (KWWL) -
Loved ones of Dubuque men arrested in June on riot charges are speaking out.
Dubuque County prosecutors charged 17 men in June with rioting, stemming from two incidents that happened in Dubuque in mid-June.
The first was an alleged fight that led to shots fired near St. Vincent de Paul downtown on the night of the 10th. The second was a report of shots fired near Jackson Park midday on the 12th.
Lt. Scott Baxter with the Dubuque Police Department said two of those men still have outstanding warrants for their arrest, eight are out of jail for various reasons and seven are still behind bars.
Loved ones of four of those men still incarcerated spoke with KWWL Wednesday, saying their loved ones are locked up on a charge they believe is blown out of proportion.
Last month, a judge set each man's bond at $10,000 for the aggravated misdemeanor of rioting.
"That is outrageous for a misdemeanor, when they should've been out the next day," Candy Harris said.
She's engaged to one of the suspects still in jail, Sylvester Durrah.
"It's been extremely difficult," she said. "You know, his daughter is missing him. We're expecting and have a child on the way, and it's been extremely hard on him and (me) and his whole family that he's not here."
Harris gathered Wednesday afternoon with several family members of four of the men, though those women declined to be identified.
"They've had police showing up at their doors, they've had harassment, they've had their landlords contacted," Harris said, citing the ripple effect of their fiances' and brothers' arrests.
The women claim video from the scene shows their brothers and fiances were not rioting. They attempted to share the video with KWWL, but the specific program for playing the file was not immediately available.
Baxter said Iowa law defines rioting as a group of people gathering with the intent to commit a criminal act, and he said police and the county attorney's office believe that was the case with these men.
"For the family members to say that it's excessive or ... whatever they're saying in terms of incarceration, we've seen a dramatic increase in the safety of the neighborhood since these individuals have been locked up," Baxter said. "Obviously, the concern now is that roughly half of them are out.
"Are we going to see an increase now in violence again?" he added. "And if that's the case, I mean, obviously we're going to respond aggressively, as we did initially, with the community's safety being our top priority."
The women said fights and altercations have broken out in the city even after their loved ones were arrested. They say they take issue with the police department citing safer streets when they say they continue to see violence occurring.
"There have been disturbances since then, none of which, to my knowledge, involved participants of these initial groups," Baxter said. "Nor did they involve any gunshots, so to say that we didn't make an impact and that we didn't enhance the safety of the community by arresting these individuals who were directly involved would be remiss."
"It's easy to say, 'Oh, they did this, they're a monster,' but then, you know, you're innocent until proven guilty," Harris said. "They're not monsters. They're men that would help anybody and everybody and give their shirt off their back for any of them."
Harris and the other women emphasized that these men are fathers, brothers, sons and soon-to-be husbands who miss their families.
They expressed concern the Dubuque Police Department targeted these individuals because they are black men.
Baxter said the department doesn't make arrests based on race or gender but, rather, for community safety.
"When we arrested the majority of individuals involved in those two shootings, we did see a decrease in violence and criminal activity specifically in that immediate area where these individuals congregate and live," Baxter said.
Harris and the others disagree.
"We have innocent men that are incarcerated, that are missing out on their daily activities with their children," Harris said.
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