Jackson County Sheriff Chuck Phillips has been in law enforcement more than 40 years.
In 2022, less than six months into the year, Phillips said he’s never seen as many shootings in a single year as the first five months of this year.
Since the beginning of 2022, nine people, in separate incidents, have been killed, including last week when a four-year-old boy accidently shot himself after finding a loaded gun. It also includes an officer-involved shooting and a suicide.
“This is the most I can ever recall,” said Phillips. “I’m not sure why. I do believe mental health issues have played a part in some of the shootings.”
Chief Deputy Rocky Harnen agreed, saying the county averages maybe two homicides a year, if that many.
The shootings have come in eight different incidents, including three in the city of Scottsboro.
Scottsboro police dealt with one shooting that claimed the life of Joshua Paul Osmer in February. No charges have been filed.
They also dealt with a double shooting that claimed two lives and also an officer who shot his estranged wife before killing himself.
A shooting involving a Hollywood police officer claimed the life of Samuel Yeatts Wilson in early March.
Of the incidents, in two of them, two men have been charged with murder.
In April, Bradley Austin Grey, 27 of Section, was charged with murder after allegedly shooting his wife, Olivia Grey, 21 of Section, who died in a local hospital from a gunshot wound.
Bradley Grey remains in Jackson County Jail, where he has been since April 15, on a $325,000 bond.
In late April, Matthew Edward Garren, 33 of Pisgah, was charged with two counts of murder after allegedly shooting his brother and father. Garren remains in county jail, where he has been since April 30, on a $301,297 bond.
While no single cause explains the rise in gun violence, a New York Times story pointed to criminologists and researchers saying a confluence of traumatic events, from the economic and social disruptions of the pandemic to the unrest of 2020, as well as the accompanying surge in gun ownership.
Dr. Garen J. Wintemute, who researches gun violence at the University of California, told the Times that he worries that Americans increasingly see those they disagree with as the enemy.
“We have lowered the bar, the threshold of insult or affront or whatever, that’s necessary for violence to seem legitimate,” Wintemute said.