Gunfire wounds 13 in Chicago park despite added policing
City residents looking for answers decried the shooters’ disregard for those caught in the crossfire, the drugs in the community and a lack of local leaders.
The Associated Press
CHICAGO — A shooting that injured a 3-year-old boy and 12 others in Chicago occurred just outside a section of the city that police have flooded with officers, reigniting outrage over the toll of the community’s gun violence and the inability of stepped-up police action to stop it.
Residents had gathered in a neighborhood park Thursday to watch a late-night pickup basketball game when assailants armed with an assault rifle indiscriminately sprayed the crowd with bullets.
On Friday, residents looking for answers decried the perpetrators’ disregard for those caught in the crossfire, drugs in the community and a lack of local leaders. A prominent rap artist, meanwhile, said more must be done to understand the city’s young people, and a frustrated police chief again called for tougher gun laws.
“We can do a lot of really good policing. ... We can reduce crime, like we’re doing, but we’re not going to have success occur as long as these guns keep flowing into our community,” police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said at a news conference.
“Illegal guns, illegal guns, illegal guns drive violence,” he said as he called on lawmakers to toughen the nation’s gun laws.
McCarthy said it was a miracle no one was killed.
The police said no arrests had been made and investigators were uncertain about the intended target, the motive and even the number of people who fired weapons. There may have been one gunman, McCarthy said, or as many as three.
The attack was the latest flare-up of street violence that has confounded city leaders. Chicago had more than 500 homicides in 2012 — more than any other city in the nation, and about 80 more than New York, which has three times as many people.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel canceled his events on the East Coast and planned to fly home because of the shooting, his aides said.
“The perpetrators of this crime will be brought to justice and prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Emanuel said in a statement. “I encourage everyone in the community to step forward with any information and everyone in Chicago to continue their individual efforts to build stronger communities where violence has no place.”
The mass shooting happened shortly after 10 p.m. in Cornell Square Park, in the Back of the Yards neighborhood on the city’s southwest side, on a night in which a rash of other shootings left two dead and at least nine people injured.
The assailants used a 7.62-mm rifle fed by a high-capacity magazine, a type of weapon that belongs on a “battlefield, not on the street or a corner or a park in the Back of the Yards,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said officers were “interviewing a number of people,” but there was no one he would describe as being in police custody.
Among those hit was Deonta Howard, 3, who was shot in the face, and two teens, 15 and 17.
Deonta was alert when he arrived at the hospital and was apparently doing well, his family and friends said Friday. He was in critical condition, as were two other shooting victims. The others were in serious or fair condition when taken to hospitals, according to the Chicago Fire Department. Hospital officials declined to provide updates late Friday.
“It’s devastating,” said one of Deonta’s relatives, Morris Shadrach Davis, 63. He said one of the boy’s uncles was fatally shot during a violent Labor Day weekend in the city that left eight people dead and 20 wounded.
“We are not a bad family,” he said, struggling to make sense of the larger tragedy unfolding in the city. “The black community is really messed up now,” he said at his home on the city’s West Side. “We had leaders before. ... Drugs have infiltrated our community. We as a people have been totally forgotten.”
In response to a surge in violence last year, the Police Department stepped up crime-fighting efforts, including paying overtime to add patrols in some neighborhoods, including the Back of the Yards. Through the first six months of 2013, the department had spent more than $57 million on overtime for officers, more than half of it for a program that saturates dangerous neighborhoods with hundreds of officers every night.
The park where the shooting took place slipped through the cracks, demonstrating the difficulty of trying to contain all of the city’s gang hot spots. Police said they had “impact zones,” with intensified patrols, three blocks north and three blocks south of the park.
But police were aware the area was what McCarthy called “a high gang-conflict zone.” Some of the victims were gang members, McCarthy said.
Violent crime is down this year in Chicago compared with 2012, when homicides surged past 500 for the first time since 2008. Police have recorded 305 homicides this year, 21 percent fewer than the 389 slayings recorded in the same period last year.
Rap artist Common, a Chicago native who has spoken eloquently about his hometown’s violence, said the city needs to better understand its young people and be more consistent in efforts to help them. Speaking at a city-sponsored summit aimed at helping musicians develop careers, he noted that while the violence remains a problem, so does increasing poverty and other hardships that families face.
“It makes me think I got to do more, we got to do more,” said Common, who has a foundation that helps expose disadvantaged young people to the creative arts.
At the park where the shooting took place, two men with a well-worn basketball came onto the courts Friday afternoon to proclaim the site safe.
“We’re not going to let an act of evil discourage us,” T.T. Turner, pastor at Mount Sinai Baptist Church, said as he shot baskets with Cleo Miller, 26.
“Those that did this will be caught,” Turner said.
Associated Press writer Ashley M. Heher and AP news researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed to this report. Material from The New York Times is included.