Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Monday he is both “saddened and sickened” by the gang violence over the July 4th holiday weekend that claimed the lives of a 7-year-old boy watching fireworks and a 17-year-old playing basketball at a park named after Hadiya Pendleton.
In a refrain that has become painfully familiar after summer weekends, Emanuel spoke haltingly as he described his emotional meetings with the mothers of 7-year-old Amari Brown and 17-year-old Vonzell Banks.
Brown’s mother dreamed only of walking her child to second grade this fall. Banks’ mom dreamed of watching her son walk across the stage on high school graduation day. Neither dream is “too much to ask,” the mayor said. But the dreams of both mothers have been shattered by the gang violence that plagues Chicago and threatens to destroy the peace of mind that parents cherish.
“I am both saddened and sickened by what happened. You have too many guns on the streets. You have a criminal justice system that lets out too many people repeatedly who use guns. You have a father who’s lost a child that should be cooperating with the Police Department in solving the crime of their child. And you have gang bangers without any moral compunction — without any moral remorse or responsibility shooting into a playground or shooting into a front yard as if it’s their personal shooting gallery,” Emanuel said.
“From the criminal justice system to elected leaders as it relates to gun laws . . . to raising people with values, the adults have let Vonzell Banks and Amari Brown down . . . You have too many guns on the street, too many people repeatedly using those guns and too little values. And we’re gonna have to deal with those weaknesses.”
Brown, the 7-year-old, was watching fireworks at his father’s home in Humboldt Park on Saturday night when he was shot in the chest by a bullet apparently meant for his father. Police have described Antonio Brown as a “ranking member” of the Four Corner Hustlers street gang.
Banks, the teenager, was shot Friday while playing basketball at a park named for Hadiya Pendleton. She became a poster child for the bloodbath on Chicago streets after being gunned down in broad daylight in 2013 just days after performing at events tied to President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.
The Banks and Brown murders occurred during a long holiday weekend that saw Chicago Police officers working 12-hour shifts to provide one-third more police protection. The goal was to prevent a repeat of last year’s bloodbath that saw 16 people killed and 82 other shot over the July 4th weekend.
On Monday, Emanuel was asked whether that policing strategy had been a “failure.” The mayor made it clear he “didn’t think much of” the question.
“You are not gonna out-police or out-invest a system in which there are too many guns with people repeatedly using the guns who have no value system . . . to know right from wrong,” the mayor said.
“You had a 30 percent increase in police coverage. It’s not about police. They’re doing hard work doing the job they need. What the police need is somebody who’s lost a child to cooperate in solving the crime and holding those responsible . . . What you have is too many guns and a criminal justice system that is not focusing on the people using the guns repeatedly who have rap sheets that are hundreds of pages long. You have to deal with where the weakness is. And we’ll be as strong as the weakness in the criminal justice system.”
An exasperated Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy has lashed out at Antonio Brown for failing to cooperate with police. McCarthy has noted that the elder Brown has been arrested 45 times and that his son might be alive today if the father had not been released on bail in April after leading police on a vehicle pursuit that culminated in his arrest on a weapons charge.
On Monday, Emanuel raised other questions unrelated to Antonio Brown’s rap sheet and alleged gang membership. They were basic questions about how to be a responsible parent.
“The idea that you’re taking a 7-year-old out near midnight — at some point, the rest of us can say, `That’s a 7-year-old out at midnight or 11:55, but near midnight.’ You have a responsibility to that child. And then, to cooperate with the Police Department on a crime committed to that 7-year-old,” the mayor said.
Sadly, the mayor’s response was pretty much the same after last year’s even bloodier July 4th weekend. Only the names of the victims have changed.
“If you’re taking an illegal gun off the street every hour, you have way too many guns too easily accessible to people with a criminal record that, people have to scratch their head and say, `What are they doing on the streets?’ ” Emanuel said Monday.
“When you put too many guns in the hands of people who have shown a criminal background without a value system, you are gonna get an outcome that us as a city and other cities, too cannot accept.”