The sights and sounds of Saturday’s 85th annual Bud Billiken Parade quickly turned from joy to horror when an 18-year-old man and a 17-year-old boy were shot and wounded while standing in the 4200 block of South King Drive along the parade route.
“Why can’t we just have one day of peace?” paradegoer Sherri Grover shouted to the crowd as police attended to the victims.
“I just ask that the gangbangers stop the violence, please,” Grover said. “This is the one day for our children.”
Witnesses said several babies and a woman in a wheelchair were nearby when the two were shot.
Among those marching in the parade were Gov. Pat Quinn and Bruce Rauner, his Republican challenger on November’s ballot, who was on the street, shaking hands, and had passed the area where the shooting happened about a minute earlier.
“We were walking along the parade route and then suddenly, for whatever reason — we now know it was a shooting,” Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf said. “There was a bunch of spectators suddenly running south and away from what was going on. We at the time had no idea what was going on. We just saw a bunch of people running away.”
The parade continued despite the shooting. But many left following the violence.
Police said the teens had been watching the parade and were shot after being approached by a group of men in the 4200 block of South King at 12:37 p.m. There was an argument, then someone opened fired, striking the two teens, Officer Veejay Zala said. Neither teenager was seriously hurt.
Audrey Johnson, 45, of Chatham, said she saw six young men jump the victim, then shoot.
“I’m sick of these kids,” Johnson, who dove when she heard the shots, said through tears. “Why can’t they just fight and get it over with? Why they gotta shoot? Why? There were babies everywhere, a woman in a wheelchair. How is she going to get away in that wheelchair? How?
“You’ve got thousands of babies out here,” she said. “I’m disgusted. What are all these kids supposed to do? Just dive down to dodge bullets? This is a day the kids wait for — the Bud Billiken. We wait for the parade.”
The parade, an African-American tradition in Chicago that’s sponsored by Chicago Defender Charities, is held each summer as a reminder to students it’s almost time to head back to school.
The shooting Saturday was the first in the Bud Billiken Parade’s eight-and-a-half-decade history, according to parade organizer Beverly Reed-Scott.
“We had a fantastic parade, one of the best in a long time,” Reed-Scott said. “It’s unfortunate that the person that committed that act chose to do it near our parade.”
The sound of gunfire sent swarms of teens and adults running in panic.
Some others at first thought the gunshots were only fireworks. Then, they saw someone dripping blood from one of his arms, running. Surrounded by families and children, the wounded 18-year-old ran a block east on 42nd Street, then, realizing he needed help, turned back and found police officers who let him rest on a black sport-utility vehicle, with one officer holding his arm to try to stop the bleeding.
Blood stains marred the entire block where he’d run.
He was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
Police said later Saturday there was a second shooting victim from the same argument — the 17-year-old boy, who was shot in the right hand and also had a graze wound to the buttocks.
Ten young men were seen being questioned by the police, with some in handcuffs, but the police said no one was in custody Saturday evening.
Contributing: Luke Wilusz