Fifteen people were killed and at least 89 others were wounded in citywide gun violence over Father’s Day weekend, marking the most shootings in a single weekend this year.
A toddler and four teenagers were among those shot to death between Friday evening and Monday morning, according to data maintained by the Chicago Sun-Times. Seven other juveniles were also struck by gunfire.
The spate of shootings came just three weeks after 24 people were killed and at least 61 others were shot during Chicago’s most violent weekend in modern history. That historic surge in gun violence happened amid the unrest that gripped the city when a downtown protest over the officer-involved killing of George Floyd devolved into chaos and led to days of looting.
‘Bullets destroy neighborhoods’
This weekend’s youngest victim, 3-year-old Mekhi James, was shot Saturday evening when someone opened fire at his father as they drove through the 600 block of North Central in Austin, according to Chicago police and the Cook County medical examiner’s office. Mekhi’s father rushed him to West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park, where he was pronounced dead a short time later.
During a news conference Sunday, Police Supt. David Brown mourned the boy’s death and also reflected on the killing of 13-year-old Amaria Jones, who was shot hours after Mekhi when a stray bullet tore through her apartment in the same neighborhood and pierced her neck as she watched television.
Amaria died at Stroger Hospital a short time later, authorities said. Two teenage boys, ages 15 and 16, were also wounded in the attack.
“I put myself in that house, holding that little girl as she struggles to breathe,” Brown said. “I put myself in that hospital, clutching that baby with a bullet hole. Tears are natural reactions to these tragic stories of violence, but we need to do more than just cry.”
As Brown repeatedly pushed to “keep violent offenders in jail longer” and revamp the home monitoring program, he also hammered home the pervasive impact of gun violence.
“Bullets don’t just tear apart the things they strike,” added Brown. “Bullets also tear apart families. Bullets destroy neighborhoods and they ruin any sense of safety in a community.”
Amaria’s death marks the second shooting death in her family in less than nine months. Her cousin, Derrick Burns, was gunned down in September in the 700 block of North Cicero, less than a mile from where she was killed. He was just 20.
Burns’ mother, Takemia Jones, said the family is reeling again after the death of her young niece, who recently completed seventh grade at John Hay Community Academy and was described as a sweet girl who “loved to dance” and play basketball.
Takemia Jones lived in the same building with her niece and was home Saturday night, though she initially thought the gunfire was merely firecrackers. Now instead of helping Jones hunt for a summer job, she’s waiting to attend her funeral.
“I feel sad and hurt,” she said. “I feel powerless, and I feel there should be more police on the street.”
Earlier Saturday afternoon, two teenage boys were shot to death in South Chicago. Charles Riley, 16, and Jasean Francis, 17, were killed while they walked through an alley in the 7900 block of South Luella Avenue, officials said.
Police have since released surveillance photos of the suspected shooter.
‘A line was crossed’
On Sunday afternoon, community leaders held a news conference near the scene of Mekhi James’ killing to offer a $9,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the fatal attack. Pastor Ira Acree of the Greater St. John Baptist Church, who organized the event and pledged $2,500 toward the reward, told reporters that “a line was crossed” when the boy was shot.
“Read my lips one more time for some people who may have a tendency to get numb to this kind of madness: A 3-year-old was gunned down, a baby. It’s so sad,” he said. “And we’re here today because we cannot adjust to the madness.”
State Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, took the opportunity to call on Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle to direct resources to areas that continue to be ravaged by gun violence.
“I’ve heard you say Black lives matter. I need you to show that Black lives matter,” said Ford. “Because right now, we’re hurting right here on the West Side of Chicago. And there’s no need to make comparisons, but if a white baby was killed, it would be different.”
Ford specifically urged Pritzker to issue an emergency order that would require the establishment of a new state agency dedicated to diversity and inclusion and bolster state spending in Black communities.
“The governor has to let us know who he’s with.”
Contributing: Sam Kelly