GARY — For Maceo Rainey, Building With Care day care in the city’s Midtown neighborhood is a community pillar and a safe haven for children, including his 7-year-old daughter.
Last week, the center became a crime scene.
The community was shaken when the facility was struck by gunfire while children were inside late Thursday. Officers arrived to discover two bullet holes in the day care's front door.
Rainey, who is also the husband of the day care’s owner and an education advocate, is just one of several community members disoriented and enraged by the shooting.
"They have been traumatized by what happened to them on Thursday night," Rainey said. "These babies deserve protection. Our children deserve a future."
Robert Buggs, vice president of the NAACP's Gary branch, also expressed dismay over the event. He described the shooting as "unacceptable."
"We’ve got to put a stop to this violence," he said.
On Monday morning, Rainey and Buggs, along with day care workers and children, met at the facility with city representatives, who gathered to address the situation.
Attendees included Gary Police Chief Brian Evans, Deputy Chief Michael Jackson Sr. and Joy Holliday, the executive director of Gary For Life — a program that aims to provide opportunities at-risk youths and potential offenders.
Evans denounced the shooting as "despicable," and said it is fortunate that someone was not wounded, or worse.
"I am sure that this incident was an act of senselessness that could have been resolved from a conversation," he said.
He said the shooting is believed to have been a random act that stemmed from an altercation between two people. As of Monday, police had obtained and were reviewing surveillance video of the events.
At least eight children and an unknown number of day care staff members were inside the building when bullets struck its front door, police said.
Rainey said he was appalled something like this could happen at an institution for the development of children.
"This is of urgent care here. Nothing is more important than the education and welfare of our children," he said. "We are not going to stand by idly as a community and let criminals and vagrants create a hostile environment here ... not now, not ever."
Evans also made a promise to the children and their families that Gary police would ensure their safety.
Effective immediately, Evans said police will increase their presence at the day care and surrounding area. Due to COVID-19 concerns, officers will be limiting their contact with anyone at the facility.
Police also plan to coordinate directly with the facility about possible solutions.
Rainey, although grateful for Evans’ show of support, also expressed disappointment in elected officials, whom he called upon to make a firm commitment to the protection of the city's children.
Gary Mayor Jerome Prince said in a public statement Monday that the city will not accept any activity that puts children in harm's way.
"As a father and grandfather, I am deeply disturbed and disgusted that cowards would endanger our children with gunﬁre. I thank God no one was injured, including those who were in a nearby day care center," he said. "Public safety is my administration’s highest priority."
Prince described the shooting as "an all-hands-on-deck issue," and urged the public to reach Gary police with any information.
"Please remember if you see something, say something. Together, we all can make Gary a better place," he said.
Evans noted that 2020 has brought unprecedented levels of gun violence across the area and the country, and that Gary is merely part of a national trend.
He said the nation largely has become desensitized to community violence.
"If I say, 'Walmart shooter,' does that seem strange to you? It should. If I say someone was shot in a random act of violence (while) driving by, does that surprise you? It should," he said. "Gun violence has become the new conflict resolution. ... We as a nation have to do something about the way that we have this proliferation of gun violence in our communities."
Evans, who grew up in the same block as the day care, said he wanted to personally visit the children and workers to ensure they feel safe. The shooting in question is currently one of the Gary Police Department's highest priorities from within the last week, he said.
Evans also said the surveillance footage has been a critical aid in the department's investigation, which remained ongoing as of Monday.
Police urged anyone with information to contact the Gary Police Department Violent Crimes Division at 219-881-1210, or the department’s Crime Tip Line at 866-CRIME-GP. Callers may request to remain anonymous.
"Someone knows who these individuals are. Someone understands what the situation was about, and someone has an idea of how to help us figure it out," Evans said "We are going to prosecute the persons responsible for it, when we find them, to the fullest extent that we can."
In this Series
5 stories you need to know today: ‘Critical’ video captured shooting at GoLo gas station, chief confirms; bystander shot
- 5 updates
Sign up for our Crime & Courts newsletter
Get the latest in local public safety news with this weekly email.