SAGINAW, MI — Hopefully barring any additions in the waning year’s final days, the city of Saginaw will wrap 2022 with 19 people having lost their lives as homicide victims. It’s a grim figure equaling the homicides that occurred the previous year.

However, of this year’s 19 homicides, three did not result from gunfire, compared to 2021 in which 18 of the 19 homicides involved gun violence. At the same time, nonfatal shootings have declined by almost 60%.

Saginaw Police Chief Robert M. Ruth credited teamwork amongst various law enforcement agencies with reducing the gun violence.

“Everybody working together as a team is what’s getting these guns off streets,” Ruth said. “We’ve made some very good arrests this year, which has slowed the gun violence down. Is there still more work to do? Oh yeah, there sure is. We got a lot of work to do, but at least it’s a positive improvement over the last few years.”

In addition to his department’s officers and detectives, Ruth lauded the Michigan State Police, the Saginaw County Sheriff’s Office, the Michigan Department of Corrections, and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Regarding the MDOC, Ruth said its agents have seized numerous guns throughout the year while conducting home searches on parolees and probationers.

The chief also praised the influence of a nearly $350,000 federal grant through the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods that has been used to reduce violent crime. The grant is to be in place for three years.

This year’s homicide victims include a 10-year-old girl allegedly killed by her 14-year-old stepbrother, a toddler allegedly killed by his father, and two pregnant women, one of whom was survived by the child she was carrying when she suffered her fatal injury.

Comparatively, Saginaw had 26 homicides in 2020, nine in 2019, 15 in 2018, 16 in 2017, 11 in 2016, eight in 2015, 14 in 2014, and 28 in 2013. The city’s highest homicide rate since 2007 was in 2012, when it hit 30.

Eleven of 2022′s killings have led to suspects being arrested and criminally charged. Another homicide, the Nov. 22 shooting death of 20-year-old Damian M. Martinez, saw police identify a 15-year-old suspect, though prosecutors declined to charge him on ruling he acted in self-defense.

Of those 11 killings wherein a suspect has been charged, one defendant — Juan M. Mireles, 49 — is charged with perpetrating three killings in the 300 block of South 11th Street in the early morning of June 5. Killed were Laura Buendia, Mariano Escareño and Rafael J. “Rafa” Campos, all 24-year-old relatives. The shooting occurred in the backyard of Buendia’s parents’ house following a family cookout.

Buendia was pregnant at the time and doctors managed to save her baby, named Rosalina L. Buendia.

The second pregnant homicide victim of the year was Jessica M. Gomez, 27, fatally shot just four days after Buendia on June 9, while in the parking lot of B&H Market, 925 N. Bond St. A 23-year-old woman with Gomez was also wounded but survived.

Unlike in Buendia’s case, doctors were unable to save Gomez’s fetus. No suspects have been charged in Gomez’s killing, though police did find a white Ford Edge believed to have been used by the killer abandoned and torched in Saginaw the morning after the shooting.

“What we’re doing is working,” Ruth said. “I’m very proud of the officers and detectives in our department, as well as the Michigan State Police. It is working and the stats show it. Now, what we need is the community to start cooperating and they’ve got to put the guns down. They got to look for other solutions to their problems instead of going to violence.”

Ruth took issue with an October media report stating Saginaw in 2021 overtook Detroit as the Michigan city with the highest violent crime rate. The two cities were respectively ranked fourth and fifth in the nation, per the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report on crime statistics.

Ruth cited the FBI’s own long-standing policy against ranking cities on the basis of crime data alone.

“Despite repeated warnings against these practices, some data users continue to challenge and misunderstand this position,” stated the FBI on the statistics’ proper use. “Data users should not rank locales because there are many factors that cause the nature and type of crime to vary from place to place.”

This year’s killings not resulting from gunfire include its first, that of 20-month-old Tony Jackson Jr., who died Jan. 8 from blunt impact injuries after being struck by another at 1206 Dillon St., according to his death certificate. The child’s father, Tony L. Lipsey-Jackson, 28, is charged with open murder and first-degree child abuse, though in May a judge deemed him incompetent to stand trial based on a report from the Center for Forensic Psychiatry.

The other two non-firearm-related homicides are those of Ricky L. Terrell, 64, and Na’Mylah J. Turner-Moore, 10. Terrell was killed the morning of July 27 when he was struck by a vehicle in the 1900 block of North Bond Street. Police identified Leroy D. McIntosh, 41, as a suspect and he has since been charged with open murder.

Na’Mylah, a fourth-grade student at Stone Elementary School, was reported missing around 5 a.m. on Aug. 30 from her stepfather’s home at 813 S. 12th St. Numerous police personnel and civilians scoured the neighborhood for her, finding her body in an overgrown lot just north of the house around 8:40 a.m.

Law enforcement have not said how Na’Mylah was killed, apart from saying no weapons were involved.

Police arrested Na’Mylah’s 14-year-old stepbrother, Jameion L. Peterson, the day of the killing. Peterson allegedly confessed to killing Na’Mylah when interviewed by police.

“During the confession, Na’Mylah’s stepbrother explained they were making ‘TikToks,’” wrote a Michigan State Police detective sergeant in an affidavit seeking a search warrant. “During this time, Na’Mylah’s stepbrother decided to murder her.”

Investigators left Peterson alone in an interview room at some point. During this time, a camera recorded him making incriminating statements.

“Something told me, ‘Don’t do it,’ but I did it anyways. How could I?” Peterson said to himself, according to documents obtained by MLive.

Peterson has been charged with open murder, though in November, a judge deemed him incompetent to stand trial based on a report from the Center for Forensic Psychiatry.

The city’s most recent homicide was the Dec. 13 killing of Delvon C. Green, 31. About 10:45 p.m., police found Green suffering from at least one gunshot wound inside Tae & G’s Hand Wash and More, 2211 E. Holland Ave. (M-46). No arrests have been made in Green’s killing.

Saginaw County as a whole had an additional six homicides in 2022. Of those six, two each were in Buena Vista and Carrollton townships and one each were in Taymouth and Bridgeport townships. Four of the killings resulted in gunfire. Suspects have been charged in two of these homicides, while the other four remain open.

While the number of homicides stayed consistent from 2021 to 2022, nonfatal shootings in Saginaw experienced a marked decline within the city this year. As of Dec. 29, there have been 40 nonfatal shootings compared to a year-end total of 93 in 2021, a decline of 57%. Nonfatal shootings rose sharply in 2020 with 103 recorded. In the years prior, from 2014 to 2019, the amount of such shootings remained fairly consistent, ranging between 36 and 53.

Going forward, Ruth hopes the violence will continue declining in the new year.

“I’m hoping things keep getting better in 2023, especially from a COVID standpoint,” he said. “It’s still affecting people and peopel are still getting COVID. I worry about my officers and civilian staff getting COVID.”

He added that the more people get back to work, the less opportunities they’ll have to commit crimes.

“People need to get back to work and get back to school,” Ruth said. “The more people get back to work and school and doing normal things in life, things will start getting back to normal.”

Bay City, Saginaw’s neighbor to the north, had one homicide in 2022, the same number it had in 2021. The lone homicide was that of Cortez D. Owens, 34, a Saginaw resident fatally shot in the parking lot between D’Angelo’s pizzeria and Tuthill Brothers Food Market in the 1300 block of Columbus Avenue the afternoon of June 26. Owens had been getting pizza with a woman and her 12-year-old child when someone approached them and opened fire.

The woman and her child were not struck by the bullets.

Cortez’s death has a link to Saginaw, as three days before his death, Saginaw County authorities issued an arrest warrant for him on an open murder charge related to the fatal shooting of Monte E. Wilson, 43. Wilson was shot near his home in the 3200 block of Bundy Street on Father’s Day, June 19.

Authorities also issued warrants for and arrested Deperryon D. King, 21, and Emilio G. Zamora, 19, in connection with Wilson’s death. King is charged with open murder and seven firearm offenses, while Zamora is charged with accessory after the fact to a felony.

King and Zamora’s trial dates in Saginaw County Circuit Court are pending.

Police have made no arrests in Owens’ killing.

Read more from MLive:

Saginaw teen accused of killing stepsister, 10, found incompetent for trial

SUV linked to killing of pregnant Saginaw woman found torched

Saginaw man charged with murder in June fatal shooting of pregnant woman, 2 relatives

Saginaw man fatally shot at East Side carwash, marking city’s 19th homicide of the year

Saginaw father accused of killing toddler son not competent for trial

Saginaw sees drops in homicides, shootings in 2021 compared to 2020