Charges pending against alleged gunman in shooting outside Garfield Park library branch

A 37-year-old Brookfield man was arrested in the shooting that wounded two boys, ages 12 and 16, outside the Legler public library branch.

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Community activists joined hands Thursday to pray on the steps of the Legler Regional Library Branch in West Garfield Park, where a 12-year-old and a 16-year-old were shot Tuesday.

Community activists joined hands Thursday to pray on the steps of the Legler Regional Library Branch in West Garfield Park, where a 12-year-old and a 16-year-old were shot Tuesday.

Pat Nabong / Sun-Times

Police on Thursday announced the arrest of a suspect in a shooting Tuesday outside the Legler Regional Library Branch in West Garfield Park that wounded two boys, ages 12 and 16.

Charges are pending on a single count of aggravated battery with a firearm, police said Thursday. Officers on Tuesday took two suspects into custody a few blocks from the library soon after the shooting in the 100 block of South Pulaski Road.

Gunfire rang out near the library’s front doors around 5:40 p.m., police said. The 16-year-old was shot in the legs, and the 12-year-old was hit near his spine and was carried into the building by a security guard.

The 12-year-old went to the library nearly every day after school to get help with homework and participate in activities like painting, his grandfather, Darnell Weatherspoon, said Thursday after a news conference held on the library steps hosted by community organizations.

“He just stepped outside to eat,” Weatherspoon said. “They won’t let you eat in the library, so he went out to have a snack and they were shooting and he got hit.”

The boy is still in significant pain and is struggling to walk but was not paralyzed by the gunshot, Weatherspoon said.

“I just want him to be OK. I don’t know if he will ever be the same,” Weatherspoon said.

Members of a half-dozen community groups gathered on the library’s front steps to show solidarity and highlight efforts to tamp down bloodshed in a neighborhood that is perennially among the city’s most violent.

The organizations have combined to mitigate the damage of shootings, but they also are working to attack the lack of investment and economic growth that are the root causes of violence, said Theodore Joseph Crawford, executive director of the Rite to Wellness Collaborative.

“Shooting in our community is not something that is unique or new,” Crawford said. “It’s not just on us as residents, though we are organized and we are going to do more than our part. It is also on the institutions and the policies, the media ... to be able to change the lens and the actions that they take.”

Many of the organizations on hand played immediate roles in responding to Tuesday’s shooting. Outreach workers from the Institute for Non-Violence Chicago and ALSO violence-prevention group were at the scene and at the hospitals, where they offer support to families or work to quash retaliation. Tuesday, witnesses said an argument outside the library escalated quickly into gunfire.

Inside the library, organizers of the 1865 Fest were holding dance auditions for their festival commemorating Juneteenth. One of the participants had taken training on first aid for gunshot wounds offered by a community organization and was able to help the two victims, said LaCreshia Birts.

“Unfortunately, in Chicago we have a lot of gun violence,” Birts said. “It’s sad that we have to use it, and need that kind of training.”

Representatives from the Police District Council — a newly elected body that will provide citizen oversight of the Chicago Police Department — also were on hand, and they called on Garfield Park residents to come to a district meeting at the library on Wednesday at 6 p.m.

“We need everybody with their ideas ... so that we can create a safer place for our community,” said Alees Edwards, one of three 11th District council members who were elected this spring. “We want to talk about this.”

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