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‘Our city deserves better,’ police Supt. Eddie Johnson says

Chicago’s top cop on Monday blamed repeat offenders for the gun violence over the Fourth of July weekend.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Police Department Supt. Eddie Johnson
Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Police Department Supt. Eddie Johnson discuss the holiday weekend gun violence at City Hall on Monday.
Syd Stone/Chicago Sun-Times

Another long holiday weekend, another slew of shootings in Chicago.

Last week, Mayor Lori Lightfoot had outlined her plans for dealing with the expected surge of summer holiday violence. In all, an extra 1,500 officers were being put on the street.

The results, however, were worse than last year, with the same number of fatalities and even more wounded, according to the Chicago Police Department.

Lightfoot discussed the weekend after another of her “Accountability Monday” meetings with police at City Hall.

Earlier in the day, CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson had blamed repeat gun offenders for much of the violence. Lightfoot agreed, and said CPD must communicate better with courts, “particularly about the necessity of keeping these violent gun offenders off the streets.”

According to Johnson, from 6 p.m. Wednesday until midnight Sunday, 42 shooting incidents occurred, leaving 66 wounded, and six dead.

Last year, there were 29 shooting incidents, 31 wounded, and six dead during the holiday weekend, a CPD representative told the Sun-Times.

Johnson said of the 42 gun arrests made between Wednesday through Friday last week, 18 were of repeat gun offenders. That’s got to stop, the mayor said.

“We can’t keep our community safe if people just keep cycling through the system, because what that says to them is, ‘I can do whatever I want. I can carry whatever I want. I can shoot up a crowd, and I’m going to be back on the street.’ How does that make sense?” she said.

Lightfoot also called for “common sense background checks” and federal legislation to stop people from purchasing “unlimited quantities” of “military-grade weapons” across the state line Indiana.

Many of the gun-related incidents this past weekend — including 84 people arrested on gun-related charges from Wednesday through Sunday by Chicago police — were carried out by people already familiar to police.

“We know that these offenders are likely to continue their behavior that landed them in handcuffs in the first place,” said Johnson. “We know this because we keep arresting them over and over again.

But Johnson also said statistics can’t reflect the lives “saved” by Chicago police while recovering guns or arresting individuals,

The 84 gun arrests made over the weekend, Johnson said, also are 84 times when “those police officers took a weapon off of somebody that could potentially be a violent situation.”

Violence over the weekend was concentrated in the West and South sides. The Englewood police district had the most incidents, with five shootings, followed by the Deering district with four and the Harrison, Near West, and Austin districts with three each.

“The challenges that we’re seeing in our neighborhoods are not just a challenge of investment or a lack of investment, they’re a challenge of lots of different things that boil up and manifest themselves as violence,” Lightfoot said.

”I can send 10,000 officers to the West Side, and if we don’t address the underlying challenges, which we must, we’re not going to solve the conflict.”

The challenge going forward for Chicago police, Johnson said, is how to stop repeat offenders, especially in the face of gang involvement in certain areas.

“As a black man who grew up in public housing in the city of Chicago, I understand the stranglehold that gangs have on certain neighborhoods … because I lived it,” Johnson said.

“I also understand the struggle, challenges and lack of opportunities when you grow up in certain neighborhoods in Chicago, and if you look a certain way,” he added. “But despite all of that, there’s still no excuses, or justified reasons for carrying the guns in the city. None.”

Weekends “like this one” are ones that “we cannot continue to see,” Johnson said.

“Our city deserves better.”