Despite a dip in shootings and murders for the year, Chicago suffered one of its bloodiest weekends in recent history last weekend. Police say 33 shootings occurred between Friday and Sunday nights, fueled mostly by gang violence. The incidents left a dozen people dead and dozens wounded. Now, the city’s mayor and police superintendent say the city’s residents who live in troubled areas of the city should do more to help stop the bloodshed.
The violence occurred between 6 p.m. Friday and 11:59 p.m. Sunday night. Nearly 70 people including several children were wounded.
Just last week, activists and Chicago residents shut down two major Chicago roadways, the Dan Ryan Expressway and scenic Lake Shore Drive, in peaceful demonstrations held to protest neighborhood and police shootings. But those actions did not blunt the violence.
“I share the anger and frustration of many Chicagoans,” Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said at a Monday morning press conference, “because if anything, it should underscore the continuing issue that we have with illegal guns and offenders that are out on the street that are willing to use them.”
The violence was not widespread, said Johnson and Mayor Rahm Emanuel — the majority occurred in four of the city’s 22 police districts on the West and South sides.
Emanuel visited hospital workers who treated victims and spoke with mothers whose children had died. Emanuel said the city has a “heavy heart.”
“What happened this weekend did not happen in every neighborhood in Chicago but it is unacceptable to happen in any neighborhood of Chicago,” he said. “We are a better city.”
There have been no arrests but Johnson said police are investigating leads and think a small subset of individuals, mostly gang members playing by their own rules, are involved.
Grieving relatives and friends gathered outside hospital emergency rooms over the weekend. By Monday, crime scene tape had disappeared from shooting locations.
In two separate incidents early Sunday morning, more than 10 people in the North Lawndale neighborhood were shot. Most of the victims were teenagers. The oldest was 25 years old, the youngest was 11 years old and a 17-year-old girl was killed.
Monday, on one of the blocks where the gun violence flared, about two dozen young people were having fun making slime at the Stone Temple Baptist Church’s Safe Haven Program, designed to give them a safe summer place.
News of the shooting alarmed Rebecca Morris, who runs the program.
“Somebody texted me and said, ‘Was any of our kids at the program?’ and I said ‘No, it wasn’t any of the kids that would come off the street into the program,’ ” Morris said. “So it wasn’t any of ours that got shot that day and I’m really thankful for that.”
In the 1960s, Martin Luther King Jr. preached at Stone Temple; the church has always served the immediate community. Reshorna Fitzpatrick, pastor at Stone Temple, says this latest shooting is lighting a fire for them to be even more active in the community and to find ways to more aggressively address needs for housing and jobs.
U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, who represents the area, says there’s a reason so many children and innocent bystanders were hurt. “They’re looking for somebody who may be in the gathering but inadvertently they often strike nontargets,” says Davis. “They don’t know how to really handle the weapon — they’re not necessarily shooting at the little children or a baby.”
“You know who they are”
Chicago’s mayor and the police superintendent say the city has too many guns on the street. Over the weekend, police seized 60 weapons and arrested 46 people on gun charges, none tied to this weekend’s shootings.
The department says it is also conducting “enforcement missions” by targeting individuals believed to be driving some of the violence and focusing on areas where police suspect there may be gang members and others plotting retaliation.
Meanwhile, Johnson said police can’t do it all. He said it is time for residents in traumatized neighborhoods to help them curb the violence. “You all know who these individuals are. They come to your home every day. [They] sleep with you every night. Grandparents, parents, siblings, significant others,” he said. “You know who they are.”
Johnson added there must be accountability beyond the police, the mayor and other city officials. “I never hear people saying, ‘These individuals need to stop pulling the trigger,’ ” he said. “They get a pass from everybody and they shouldn’t.”
Johnson had hoped to share better news this week. He says so far this year, Chicago’s homicide rate dropped by 20 percent and the number of shooting victims by 17 percent. The superintendent says that while he is pleased with the improvement, the weekend carnage shows the city of Chicago has much more work to do. He says the police department will start by placing more officers in those troubled neighborhoods.