Holyoke mayor announces $1M public safety plan in wake of Oct. 4 shooting

Holyoke Mayor Josh Garcia reacts at a press conference Oct. 5 in response to a shooting in the city that resulted in the death of a pregnant woman’s child.

Holyoke Mayor Josh Garcia reacts at a press conference Oct. 5 in response to a shooting in the city that resulted in the death of a pregnant woman’s child. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

By James PentlanD

Staff Report

Published: 10-31-2023 2:27 PM

HOLYOKE — Mayor Joshua A. Garcia is calling for $1 million in new spending to hire 13 additional police officers, boost police enforcement, foot and bike patrols and install a citywide surveillance camera system in response to a downtown shooting Oct. 4 in which a woman’s unborn child was killed.

In announcing the plan, which he dubbed “Ezekiel’s Plan/Operation Safe Streets” in honor of the shooting victim, Garcia said in a statement that the city’s “commitment to compassion and social justice must be balanced against our responsibility to provide for the safety and well-being of all our citizens.”

The plan also calls for increased inspection of rental properties and for creating a new post of homeless liaison/housing navigator, along with other neighborhood initiatives.

Garcia intends to introduce his public safety plan to the City Council at a special meeting in November. Money for the initiatives would be drawn from a range of sources, including the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), capital stabilization, opioid settlement funds and local appropriation.

“This plan is heavy on law enforcement,” Garcia acknowledged in the statement. “But we also look forward to introducing proactive strategies that can help resolve blight and other issues before they become bigger problems.

“This operation is designed to address the problems associated with drug trafficking and associated violence throughout the city, as well as to improve housing and neighborhood conditions.”

Ezekiel’s mother, Selena Santana, who was eight months pregnant, has been discharged from hospital and is now recuperating at home with Ezekiel’s father, according to Garcia’s statement.

Johnluis Sanchez, 30, and Alejandro Ramos, 22, both of Holyoke, have been charged with murder for their suspected involvement in the shooting and are being held without bail. A third suspect, Kermith Alvarez, 28, is still at large.

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Two other Holyoke resident, Jose Galarza, 31, and Jay Marie Rosada-Rosario, 29, have each been charged with being an accessory after the fact for allegedly helping Alvarez evade capture.

James Pentland can be reached at jpentland@gazettenet.com.