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Shootings of Chicago cops are also an assault on all of our neighborhoods

Four police officers have been shot in Chicago in two weeks. The city is feeling more like a war zone than a place to call home.

Police investigate after an officer was shot in the shoulder Thursday in Brighton Park — according to police by a shoplifter at a Home Depot who also wounded a security guard before being killed in a shootout with the police. The officer was the fourth Chicago cop to be shot in two weeks.
Police investigate after an officer was shot in the shoulder Thursday in Brighton Park — according to police by a shoplifter at a Home Depot who also wounded a security guard before being killed in a shootout with the police. The officer was the fourth Chicago cop to be shot in two weeks.
Tyler LaRiviere / Sun-Times

Eight people shot, one dead.

Seeing the horrible news crawl across my TV screen, for a moment, I was confused.

Did someone post old news? Or did this really happen so soon after a mass shooting at a South Side warehouse party left two people dead and 15 wounded?

Sadly, it wasn’t an error.

Early Friday, two men started shooting inside a building in Wrightwood, killing a 26-year-old man and leaving seven others in need of medical care.

Yet I count us lucky because of what recently happened in Atlanta, where a white gunman killed eight people, six of them women of Asian descent, leading many to label the shooting a hate crime.

Soon after that, a man suspected of having a mental illness opened fire at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado. Ten people were killed there, including a police officer.

That last shooting is part of a plague that, like the pandemic, also seems to target a vulnerable population — in this case, police officers, who have become targets in Chicago as well. Four police officers have been shot in Chicago in two weeks, making the city feel more like a war zone than a place to call home.

In one of the shootings, prosecutors said a man shot an innocent person to “lure” police to the area “because he wanted them to kill him.”

The suspect, Tracey Thomas Jr., has been charged with the attempted murders of five police officers.

This unprecedented assault on police officers comes at a time the Chicago Police Department is trying to strengthen its ties with communities experiencing high crime.

In recent months, I’ve witnessed police officers participate in prayer vigils on corners that are under siege by folks up to no good. And I wonder how these officers keep up their morale.

Police Supt. David Brown took over a department embarrassed by scandal at the top and hampered by mistrust at the bottom. Yet he had to stand before the cameras after each gun atrocity and say something that was supposed to give us hope.

As he did again on Thursday.

“Here in Chicago — it’s the idea that cops are putting their lives on the line every day, and it seems that these offenders are acting with impunity, and yet, with hypercriticism, officers continue to run toward danger,” Brown said at a news conference after an officer was shot and wounded in Brighton Park.

We should all remember police officers and their families in our prayers. They need it.

And so do we. With the police under this kind of fire, what are we supposed to do?

It used to be that I felt pretty safe during daylight hours in specific neighborhoods and particular places. But when gunfire breaks out at a Home Depot and cops are getting shot on the regular, it’s clear that there is nowhere to hide.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of gun deaths across the country is staggering — 39,707 in 2019. We consider ourselves to be such a progressive country. But the U.S. gun homicide rate is 25 times that of other high-income countries.

And, for all of the progress that Black folks have made, we represent most of the victims of these killings. We are 10 times more likely than white Americans to be shot to death, according to Everytown Research & Policy.

The news media need to run a daily tally of gun deaths in this country just like we do with COVID-19. Perhaps then more elected officials would be willing to take up the fight to pass more restrictive gun laws.

We’ve fought too hard to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic to succumb to the epidemic of gun violence.

Contributing: Grace Asiegbu