Editorial: Little Tyshawn’s death a barbaric new low in Chicago

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Gangs kill kids in different ways.

They kill kids in drive-by shootings. The shooter misses his intended victim but kills a child. This happens all the time.

They kill kids who are gang members themselves. The kids usually are older — teens — but not always. Remember Robert “Yummy” Sandifer? He was 11 years old in 1994 when members of his own gang killed him.

And now, in a chilling ratcheting up of the barbarism in Chicago, gangbangers may have killed a child, 9-year-old boy Tyshawn Lee, simply to get back at his father, who allegedly belonged to a rival gang. This is what the Chicago Police say.


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Does anybody want to whine anymore because somebody made a movie called “Chi-Raq”? Or will we, as a city, finally own this?

The violence is not celluloid. It is not a minor subplot in Chicago’s bigger and grander story. It is as devastatingly real as the bloodstain in a South Side alley where a little boy carrying a basketball was executed.

Tyshawn’s father, Pierre Stokes, says nobody should blame him. “I’m not the killer,” he said to reporters Thursday. “Worry about the killer.”

But we’ll blame him. We’ll blame every gangbanger. Wherever they run the streets, good people are not safe.

No, Stokes is not the killer. He’s just a guy, if you believe Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, so deeply involved in a Hatfield-McCoy gang feud that others went out and killed his son. Good luck, Mr. Stokes, sleeping with that.

In 1998, eight years before his son was born, Stokes was convicted of battery. The same year, he was convicted of criminal trespassing.

In 1999, seven years before his son was born, Stokes was picked up for disorderly conduct.

In 2004, two years before his son was born, Stokes was convicted of theft.

In 2009, three years after his son was born, Stokes was convicted of armed robbery. He was sentenced to six years in prison.

In 2014, eight years after his son was born, Stokes was charged with the unlawful use of a weapon. He allegedly was spotted running into a building with a loaded .45-caliber semi-automatic with a defaced serial number. That charge, to which Stokes has pleaded not guilty, is pending.

Earlier this year, nine years after his son was born, Stokes was picked up again for disorderly conduct — and this begs a question. Why was Stokes even running free at that point? He was a convicted armed robber awaiting trial on another gun charge.

Those are not the kinds of fundamentally non-violent crimes for which many criminal justice reform advocates, including this editorial page, urge alternatives to incarceration.

Had Stokes been held in jail on the gun charge — physically removed from a gang feud that has been tied to two other recent slayings — is it farfetched to think his son might be alive today?

Chicago has a homicide problem. Call it an addiction. Killings and shootings are up 18 percent this year over last year. But this is not a new problem; it is an ongoing civic shame.

What is new is a little boy being targeted for murder. Lured into an alley with the basketball he carried with him everywhere. Shot multiple times. Left to die.

“Now we’re going after family members?” the activist priest Michael Pfleger asked on Thursday. “We’re going to target mothers? We’re going to target grandmothers? We’re going to target babies?”

Whatever City Hall and the Chicago Police and the criminal courts and the state Legislature and every civic leader is doing to make Chicago a less bloody town is not working. It is not enough.

“Chi-Raq” is now a kids’ movie.

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