Details emerge of Portage Park bar shooting, Bally’s casino plan passes zoning hurdle and more in your Chicago news roundup

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

SHARE Details emerge of Portage Park bar shooting, Bally’s casino plan passes zoning hurdle and more in your Chicago news roundup
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Mercedes Imari , 24, Mario Pozuelos, 26, and Ricky Vera, 50.

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

This afternoon will be cloudy with a high near 42 degrees. Tonight will be rainy with a low near 37. Tomorrow will also be rainy with a high near 47.

Top story

Gunman in mass shooting at Portage Park bar stood over daughter as she tended to her father and shot her in the head: source

Mariah Vera rushed to her father’s side as a gunman opened fire at her birthday party at a Portage Park bar over the weekend.

As she wept and tended to his wounds, the gunman walked up and shot her in the head, according to a law enforcement source. Vera, 25, was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital in critical condition, but her father Ricky Vera, 50, was pronounced dead at the scene outside his brother’s bar, Vera Lounge, in the 5500 block of West School Street early Sunday.

Two of Mariah Vera’s friends were also killed: Mercedes Imari, a 24-year-old mother of a young boy and infant twins; and Mario Pozuelos, 26, a “beloved son, brother, nephew, cousin,” according to a GoFundMe page.

Witnesses said the gunman fled in a dark-colored SUV. Police said a suspect was taken into custody the next day but no charges have been announced.

Police have said little more about the shooting, but a friend of the Vera family said an argument broke out around 2:30 a.m. Sunday and someone went to his car and grabbed a gun.

“Rick was celebrating his daughter Mariah’s birthday late Saturday night with other family and friends when an argument escalated,” the family friend, Luis E. Ortiz, said on a GoFundMe page for the Veras.

Another friend, Oscar Ortiz, said Rick Vera was an “excellent husband, excellent grandfather, excellent father, excellent brother.”

Imari “was a wonderful mother to our three precious babies — a 3 1/2-year-old boy and 9-month-old boy and girl twins,” Miguel Gordillo, the children’s father, said in a GoFundMe appeal.

Tom Schuba has more on this tragic, developing story here.

More news you need

  1. Two to four people are believed responsible for 50 armed robberies over four days last week on the North and West sides, according to Chicago police. In each case, the suspects pulled up in a car, got out and approached people on streets and sidewalks, then robbed them at gunpoint, police said.
  2. Students and staff at the Francis W. Parker School evacuated their building yesterday because of what turned out to be an unsubstantiated bomb threat. The threat came just days after a far-right group publicized a covertly recorded and edited video of the school’s dean discussing sexual education classes.
  3. Charges have been filed against a man who was shot by Chicago police after he allegedly stabbed an officer who was responding to a home invasion in Roseland. The 41-year-old was charged with attempted first-degree murder, home invasion with a dangerous weapon, aggravated assault to a peace officer and aggravated kidnapping, officials said.
  4. R. Kelly appears to have released a rare public statement from jail today, imploring people to “just leave my music alone, because it is all I have left, it’s all my fans have left.” The statement was part of a message the Sun-Times received through an email service for federal inmates. Our Jon Seidel has more information on the message here.
  5. Zoning for a Bally’s casino in Chicago got the blessing today of a City Council committee as a key alderperson accepted the company’s promises to hire people of color. Ald. Walter Burnett Jr., whose 27th Ward includes the casino site, praised the project, saying he’d seen documented agreements between Bally’s and labor unions and received commitment from Mayor Lightfoot’s administration “for hiring people in our neighborhood.”
  6. U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia appears to be running away with the race for mayor of Chicago, according to a poll bankrolled by powerful construction union Operating Engineers Local 150. Our Fran Spielman breaks down the poll results and reliability here.
  7. Last week, conductor Dalia Stasevska made her Chicago Symphony Orchestra debut. Six weeks earlier she was driving a van filled with supplies into her native Ukraine. She spoke with Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg about her experience here.
  8. Lastly, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has a plan to block live transmissions of Chicago Police Department scanners — restricting access to transmissions that have always been available to the public and to the news media. We’ve teamed up with other local newsrooms to raise awareness about how this will harm our ability to keep you safe and informed. Read the news coalition’s full response here.

A bright one

Pilsen couple fall in love over arts education, start organization to teach kids music

For Daniel and Katrise Chávez, the song and dance started on a bus bound for Pilsen. Strangers then, they began talking, discovered they shared a passion for arts education, and somewhere along the way, began to fall in love.

“It ended up being a really life-changing conversation,” Katrise said.

The couple eventually married and found the organization, People’s Center for Cultural and Contemporary Arts, to bring art and music to students.

The organization hosts the showcases every other month with funding from the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Started two years ago, People’s Center for Cultural and Contemporary Arts now supports 24 programs at 13 locations between Hermosa on the Northwest Side and Marquette Park on the South Side. The Chávezs said they started their organization specifically to fill a gap at Chicago Public Schools in arts programming. The arts teach essential skills, such as problem-solving, they said.

Daniel and Katrise Chávez, co-founders of People’s Center for Cultural and Contemporary Arts, at the former Holy Trinity Croatian church in Pilsen, where they hold classes.

Daniel and Katrise Chávez, co-founders of People’s Center for Cultural and Contemporary Arts, at the former Holy Trinity Croatian church in Pilsen, where they hold classes.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

What brought Daniel and Katrise together was salsa music and dance. The couple met at a downtown bus stop in 2019. When Daniel first saw Katrise, he had a Latin beat playing in his headphones as he watched her shimmy across the street.

“Oh, my God, that lady is moving to my music,” he thought, so he asked what she was playing in her headphones. It was salsa too, it turned out. They began chatting and haven’t stopped ever since.

She was a dancer from a military family that moved around the country and had worked as a teacher; he, a musician who grew up in Oregon and studied classical music. The two new Chicagoans soon found themselves on the same beat.

“By the time we got off the bus, we decided to keep discussing this common theme of accessible arts programming,” Katrise said.

“I wanted to be able to give kids the same opportunities that were given to me,” said Daniel, who learned to play rock and jazz through a similar nonprofit when he was young.

Michael Loria has more with the couple and their organization here.

From the press box

Your daily question☕

What’s one now-closed business in your neighborhood you’d bring back if you could? Tell us why.

Send us an email at newsletters@suntimes.com and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday we asked you: Say you’ve been granted three wishes that can only be used to improve/better your neighborhood — what will you wish for?

Here’s what some of you said...

“Friendly neighbors, vibrant retail area free of crime and an awesome ceramic studio filled with gas-fired kilns.” — Arrelle Fine Linens

“ 1. That the City would help the homeless up here in Edgewater. 2. I wish that the news media in town would cover the homeless issue with an eye toward how to help people. 3. More recognition of people in Edgewater/ Rodgers Park who are working to help their neighbors and make the neighborhood more open to everyone. There are so many good things happening here.” — Tom Krajecki

“More frequent and reliable transit. No cars. More park district programming and community building.” — Andrew Mack

“Sidewalks installed on Central Avenue. All potholes filled. All diseased trees removed and replaced.” — Ellen Zemaitis

“Higher wages, youth community centers with trained childcare staff and ample affordable housing available.” — Sandra Judith

“Stability in affordable housing for people from Albany Park w/o fear of being pushed out by landlords, developers, real estate agents, gentrifiers. A plan to decrease cars gradually over time. Stronger community institutions — besides religious — particularly local media.” — Carl Nyberg

“A sized down lakeshore BLVD. Protected bike lanes on Marine Dr. A shortcut to access the lakeshore through Morovitz golf course — actually, I trade the golf course short cut for parking maximums in Buena Park.” — Rick P.

“Feral cat colony to control the rat population. Guaranteed income for all my neighbors. Support for small businesses.” — Marilyn Scharko

“More reliable public transit. Safer conditions for walking and biking - infrastructure, education. An alderman who cares about the ward as a whole, not just their chosen people.” — Anne A.

“I would wish for the architecture to go back to what it was in the 1960s, all the buildings to be in great shape — or new — and maybe for the rent to go back to what it was in the 1960s too!” — Ronda Allen

Thanks for reading the Chicago Sun-Times Afternoon Edition.Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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