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15 shot outside Gresham funeral home

The shooting happened in the 1000 block of West 79th Street; 1 person of interest is being questioned.

Chicago police investigate the scene where multiple people were shot July 21, 2020, in the 1000 block of West 79th Street.
Chicago police investigate the scene where multiple people were shot July 21, 2020, in the 1000 block of West 79th Street.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Fifteen people were shot Tuesday evening outside a funeral home in Gresham on the South Side — the largest number of victims in a single Chicago shooting in recent memory.

The shooting happened about 6:30 p.m. as people left a funeral in the 1000 block of West 79th Street, Chicago Police First Deputy Supt. Eric Carter said.

Several police evidence markers placed near spent bullet casings were lying outside the entrance to Rhodes Funeral Services on the north side of the block. All told, Carter said, police recovered 60 of them.

The 15 victims were being treated at five area hospitals, Carter said. Chicago fire officials said they were listed in conditions ranging from serious to critical. All the victims ages range from 21 to 65-years-old, police said. Ten of them are women.

Police said they were investigating the motive and couldn’t say yet if the shootings were gang-related.

Carter said a black vehicle was speeding west on 79th Street when people inside began “firing at attendees of a funeral.” Some of those at the funeral returned gunfire with those in the vehicle. The driver then turned north onto Carpenter, while at least one person in the vehicle continued to shoot at the funeralgoers.

Warning: The following video contains graphic content.

The driver soon crashed in the 7800 block of South Carpenter. Those inside the vehicle ran off in different directions, though one “person of interest” was taken into custody and was being questioned by detectives Tuesday night, Carter said.

Sources said the funeral was for Donnie Weathersby, 31, who was shot and killed last week in the 7400 block of South Stewart — about a mile and half northeast of where Tuesday’s shooting occurred.

Carter said a Chicago police squad car was assigned to guard the funeral home and was parked outside when the gunfire began.

Arnita Geder and Kenneth Hughes said they were in their home watching TV when they heard gunshots.

“We went out in the street and all we saw was bodies just laying everywhere,” Geder said. “They were shot up everywhere.”

“We thought it was a war out here. It’s ridiculous all the shooting that’s going on out here, it really has to stop,” she said.

Tuesday night, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a Twitter post, “When a person picks up a gun, we suffer as a city. This cannot be who we are.“

“Too many guns are on our streets and in the hands of people who should never possess them,” Lightfoot continued. “These individuals will be held accountable. I ask that anyone with information on this incident please come forward or submit a tip anonymously at http://cpdtip.com.”

Tuesday’s mass shooting is among the bloodiest single incidents of violence in modern Chicago history – leaving a tally more akin to a battleground in Afghanistan or Iraq than a city street.

A mass shooting in September 2013 horrified Chicagoans when 13 people, including a 3-year-old boy, were wounded in Cornell Park near 51st and Wood in Back of the Yards.

Six men were arrested in what police said was an act of revenge on behalf of Byron Champ, who had suffered a graze wound in a quarrel with gang rivals.

Champ, who was identified by prosecutors as organizing the shooting, fired into the park with an AK-47 while another man fired a handgun. Champ is serving a 28-year prison term and the other five men got shorter sentences.

The potential violence associated with gang funerals has drawn the attention of the Chicago police for decades.

In late 2012, a 21-year-old man was shot to death and another man was critically wounded in a shooting outside St. Columbanus Catholic Church across the street from A.A. Rayner & Sons Funeral Home in the 300 block of East 71st.

Hundreds of mourners were leaving the church and scrambled for cover during the shootings.

Then-police Supt. Garry McCarthy said the violence and threats associated with funerals for gang members were “out of control” and ordered his officers to ramp up surveillance of them.

Other shootings involving funerals in the past decade have included a 2007 killing outside a funeral home on the South Side. The feds said the Hobos street gang was responsible.

In 2004, a cortege for a slain Latin Kings member even stopped to let someone in the procession shoot a rival gang member on the street, police said at the time.

Tuesday’s mass shooting comes just one day after President Donald Trump told reporters in the Oval Office that he was looking at sending federal agents to Chicago and other cities to combat crime.

“We’re not going to let this happen in our country. All run by liberal Democrats,” the president said Monday.

That prompted Mayor Lori Lightfoot to say, “We don’t need federal agents without any insignia taking people off the streets, I think, unlawfully.”

Trump has repeatedly bashed Chicago as an example of big cities unable to contain surges of violence this year. Murders in Chicago are up almost 50% compared with the same period of 2019. And on May 31, Chicago suffered the single deadliest day in six decades, with 18 murders. As violence has risen in recent months, police activity has fallen, with arrests, traffic stops and street stops far below 2019 levels, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis found.

Earlier this month, police Supt. David Brown announced the creation of a new citywide unit to concentrate on crime hot spots. Other such citywide units have been tried in the past, but were disbanded.

Read more on crime, and track the city’s homicides.