Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Interim Police Supt. Charlie Beck on Wednesday decried the warm weather outbreak of violence straining police resources and filling hospital space desperately needed for patients with the coronavirus.
“This violence has to stop. There are two pandemics that face Chicago — and only one of them is virus-induced,” Beck said.
In the 24-hour period starting at midnight Monday, seven people were shot to death and 21 more were wounded, including a 5-year old girl. Another man was killed after being pushed onto CTA Red Line tracks at Jackson and run over by a train.
The death toll was even worse between 7 p.m. Sunday and 9:30 p.m. Tuesday: 13 homicides, 25 non-fatal shooting victims. Of those 13 homicides, 11 were in shootings.
Lightfoot said that level of violence is “never acceptable. Never, ever. … Shooting into crowds without any regard for the consequences is the most heinous form of cowardice.”
But the unrelenting gun violence that has plagued Chicago for decades is even more intolerable now — when police manpower and hospital beds and resources are being “stretched to the breaking” point by the coronavirus.
“In the middle of this worldwide pandemic, our precious health resources need to be treating COVID-19 patients and those needing acute care. Every day we are measuring our precious health care resources. The number of beds we have in hospitals, ICU capacity. To be blunt, if our ICUs are filled with gunshot victims, our ability to respond to this … crisis will necessarily be compromised,” she said.
“Just this week, we talked about the disproportionate burden that black Chicago is facing with infections and death related to COVID-19. These same communities continue to be plagued by gun violence. I’m here to say enough, enough, enough.”
Lightfoot said she has “directed the Police Department to spare no expense or resource to bring the perpetrators to justice.” The mayor said police “already have some promising leads,” but they need the help of witnesses who may not trust the police or fear for their own safety.
“This is especially urgent now as our ability to treat all Chicagoans is being stretched to the breaking point. We cannot allow this to happen. People know who the shooters are. You know who you are. These cowards cannot be given any shelter,” she said.
Beck said CPD is “working tirelessly” to solve the blitzkrieg of crimes and has “suspects in custody on two“ of the incidents and “strong leads with suspects identified’ on two of the other crimes.
There is video of the CTA death, and police are close to making arrests. He joined the mayor in condemning Chicago’s unrelenting gun violence that will now be inherited by newly-appointed Police Supt. David Brown.
“Every one of those ER beds taken up by a gunshot victim could be somebody’s grandmother, somebody with pre-existing conditions, somebody that is in danger of losing their life because of the pandemic,” Beck said.
“Every one of those cops — and there are dozens — that are pulled off the street in order to work one of these crimes cannot enforce social distancing, can’t do security at our public safety and our health safety venues. They can’t watch over your home, and they can’t watch over your children.”
Contributing: Sam Charles