Afternoon Edition: Oct. 29, 2020

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

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Chris Trani, from Lake View, was shot in a paintball attack while he was riding a bike earlier this month. The attack left a scar on his forehead.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

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Afternoon Edition

Chicago’s most important news of the day, delivered every weekday afternoon. Plus, a bonus issue on Saturdays that dives into the city’s storied history.

This afternoon will be cloudy with a chance of rain and a high near 49 degrees. Tonight’s low will be around 33 degrees. Tomorrow, things will clear up: it’ll be mostly sunny with a high near 45 degrees.

Top story

Paintball attacks explode citywide: ‘This is unneeded stupidity’

The number of paintball attacks in Chicago has skyrocketed this fall, according to police records.

Eighty-eight paintball shootings were reported across the city in September alone. That’s more than double the 42 attacks that were reported between January and August. And posts on social media suggest the attacks have continued at a high rate throughout October.

Though the shootings have been recorded all over the city, the South and West sides have seen the brunt of them. Englewood and West Englewood saw the most attacks, with 17 combined shootings reported in September. Chatham followed with seven reported attacks, and Austin recorded six.

Chicago police did not respond to questions on what they believe is driving the uptick in shootings, or whether the attacks are random or related in any way.

Ald. Ray Lopez, whose ward covers parts of West Englewood, said residents have complained to his office about the spike in shootings, and that he has been in weekly communication with 7th District police in an attempt to identify those who are responsible.

Citing a man “in his 40s or 50s” who is believed to be supplying paintball guns to his friends, Lopez said he thinks boredom is part of what’s driving the attacks.

“The casualty of these paintball war games are the residents who are just trying to live peacefully despite the maelstrom swirling around them, with COVID and everything else. This is unneeded stupidity,” Lopez said.

Dr. Hassan Shah, assistant professor of ophthalmology and visual science at UChicago Medicine, says the University of Chicago Medical Center has seen the impact of the sharp rise in attacks, recalling a weekend earlier this month where the hospital treated eight patients for paintball-related injuries.

“We’ve seen the full spectrum of injuries, from bleeding inside the eye to severe damage where the eye is ruptured, where we cannot repair the eye and may even have to recommend removal of the eye,” Shah said.

Northwestern Medical Center in Streeterville has seen an increase in cases as well, including two patients whose eyes were ruptured in paintball attacks in recent weeks. The victims will suffer permanent vision damage because of it, said Nicholas Volpe, chair of the ophthalmology department at the Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine.

“It might seem like an innocent way of getting attention or expressing yourself, or not thinking like you’re going to introduce injuries, but if one of these paintballs hits somebody in the eye, it is very likely that it can cause a severe and blinding injury,” Volpe said.

Even if a paintball doesn’t cause lasting injuries, shootings can have a lingering traumatic effect. Chris Trani, of Lake View, said he doesn’t feel as comfortable going out at night since he was pelted by a barrage of paintballs on Oct. 12 in Lincoln Park.

“There’s an element of surprise, it catches you off guard and you’re scared and frightened,” Trani said. “You don’t know if this is a drive-by, am I going to die, am I getting shot for real? All that happens in a half of a second.”

Read Sam Kelly’s full story to see a map of recent paintball attacks.

More news you need

  1. Public health officials in Illinois reported 6,363 new cases of COVID-19 today, setting yet another troubling record for the most infections ever confirmed statewide in a single day. The state’s seven-day average testing positivity rate is up to 6.9%, its highest point since June 2.
  2. Developers and mayors vying for the chance to break ground on new casinos — including two in Chicago’s suburbs — will have to wait at least another six months to find out if they’re holding a winning hand. Illinois Gaming Board administrator Marcus Fruchter blamed the COVID-19 pandemic for pushing back his agency’s timeline.
  3. The United Center, long the home of the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks, will be an Election Day voting super site for the first time in the arena’s history. Along with voting in person, those who choose to go to the arena can also return their vote by mail ballots or process same-day voter registrations.
  4. Loyola University and Northwestern University both plan to bring more students back for the winter term despite the ongoing coronavirus spike that has led to increased restrictions in Chicago and the suburbs. Adam Mahoney explains the schools’ plans.
  5. In another sign of lost ground against the pandemic, Chicago’s chief federal judge suspended criminal jury trials “effective immediately” today, nearly three months after they slowly got rolling again. The judge also said civil jury trials would be suspended effective Nov. 9.
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A bright one

‘Toothpick Guy’ pieces together a band after years of building model ships

For Wayne Kusy, building large-scale models of cruise ships out of toothpicks from his Lincoln Square apartment has led him to good things: television appearances, newspaper profiles, and a sparks-flying conversation with a woman on a CTA bus that he regrets abandoning because his stop was called.

Toothpicks have been central to his identity since he fell in love with a project gluing them into boats during a fifth grade art class.

Kusy, 59, has been crafting toothpick boats ever since. A few are in museums. And though he occasionally sells smaller models for a few hundred bucks, an artist’s passion fuels him, not money — he gets paid through his day job as a web developer.


Wayne Kusy holds up a box of toothpicks next to the set for his stop motion music video “I Think There For I Am.”

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

His faithfulness to floating objects, however, was put on ice two years ago when a radical idea burst into his brain: create a rock band out of toothpicks. He crafted five musicians, called the group Wood Zeppelin (yes, a nod to Led Zeppelin) and created a stop motion animation music video with the help of a few friends and a green screen he set up in his living room. He finished earlier this month.

Kusy, who plays guitar, used himself as the model for one of the characters, Birch Reynolds. Each figure stands about a foot tall and took him around 80 hours to make, often while watching “Star Trek.”

One inquiry he regularly fields: Are you crazy? His reply: “Yes, but only in a good way.”

Kusy is thinking his next project feature a toothpick characters re-creating dancing scenes from the popular television show “Soul Train.”

Watch the music video and read Mitch Dudek’s full story here.

From the press box

The White Sox officially named Tony La Russa, the Hall of Famer who led the Cardinals to three World Series titles, as their new manager this afternoon. It’s fair to say the hiring of the 76-year-old, which was widely rumored in recent days given La Russa’s relationship with Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, won’t be popular among many of the team’s fans.

Your daily question ☕

What’s your favorite thing to cook this time of year? Share your photos with us!

Email us (please include your first name and where you live) and we might include your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday, we asked you: What’s your favorite Halloween-themed movie? Here’s what some of you said…

“Arsenic and Old Lace. Old, but great for Halloween!” — Candy Helen

“It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” — Kate Tallent

“The original Halloween with Jamie Lee Curtis.” — Betty Roth

“Hocus Pocus. A Halloween classic with a musical number.” — Lefran Lloyd

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