Chicago police face overwhelming gun crime as 45 people shot over weekend

Chicago police superintendent Garry McCarthy compared the department's task on gun violence to 'drinking from a firehose'...

Chicago police superintendent Garry McCarthy compared the department's task on gun violence to 'drinking from a firehose'. Photograph: Jim Young/Reuters
A senior Chicago police officer said that parts of the city are being overwhelmed by gun violence, after a weekend in which nine people were shot dead and at least 36 – including six children – were wounded.
Ronald Holt, the commander of the Chicago police department’s special activities division, said that the city was witnessing “fratricide” among young men who had come to believe “that the only way to resolve a conflict is to get a gun and go shoot to kill”.
“To tackle gun violence where it is overwhelming communities with the extraordinary loss of lives at an alarming pace, we must deal with it as a social disease and health issue,” Holt, whose 17-year-old son Blair was shot dead on a bus in 2007, told the Guardian in an email.
His remarks came as Chicago suffered its bloodiest weekend of the year. Dozens of residents were shot in a series of separate incidents. On the city’s south side, five children aged between 11 and 15 were shot while walking home from a park on Sunday evening.
The four girls and one boy were asked if they were affiliated with a gang, and then shots were fired from a light-coloured sedan, a police spokesman said. An 11-year-old girl was in a critical condition in hospital after being shot in the neck. A 14-year-old girl was in a serious condition after suffering a shot to her abdomen. A 14-year-old boy and 15-year-old girl were stable after being shot in the left leg and right arm respectively. Another 14-year-old girl suffered a grazed buttock.
The shootings occurred less than a mile from the south-side porch where Gakirah Barnes, a 17-year-old girl, died after being shot nine times the previous weekend. “We are looking at whether this could have been a retaliation for previous shootings,” Andrew Holmes, a community organiser, said on Monday morning.
About two hours after the five children were shot on Sunday evening, a 15-year-old girl was shot in the back while sitting in a car at a traffic light in the north-west of the city. Police said that a group of three men had flashed gang signs before one opened fire.
At least nine people were killed around the city over the Easter weekend, including 16-year-old Jordan Means, who, along with 18-year-old Anthony Bankhead, was found shot dead in an apartment on the south side on Saturday morning. Means’s mother, Camille Cochran, told local media that the pair were shot over a dispute that had been raging on Facebook.
The weekend’s death toll brought the total number of suspected homicides so far this year to 90, compared to 92 at this point in 2013, according to figures compiled by RedEye Chicago. Superintendent Garry McCarthy on Monday compared the task his department faces as it tries to tackle gun violence to “drinking from a firehose”.
“We can do things to improve what’s happening, but until such time as we get some help with the gun laws in the state of Illinois, we’re up against it,” McCarthy told CBS News. But Illinois law has recently moved towards looser gun controls. The first permits allowing residents to carry concealed firearms, under a law passed by the state legislature last year, were sent out last month.
The Guardian reported on Saturday that a feud between rival rappers had been linked to a series of shooting deaths in the city, including that of Barnes and, two days later, Mario “Big Glo” Hess. Hess, an up-and-coming rapper formerly known as “Blood Money”, had recently received a $50,000 record deal advance.
Holt, whose special activities division works to tackle gang violence, said that some rappers from Chicago “can't seem to loose themselves from their own gritty and dangerous surroundings” even as they receive lucrative contracts and progress in the music industry.
“It would do the rap and hip-hop industry some good if gang violence was denounced and acknowledged as being a part of the problem,” said Holt. “Never before in the history of any American music genre have we associated murder and pistol-play with such consistency as we have witnessed in the rap and hip-hop world of music.”


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