Chicago was left reeling over the Fourth of July weekend as citywide gun violence left multiple children killed for the third weekend in a row.
As of 5 a.m. Monday, 79 people were shot, 15 of them fatally, including two children shot dead Saturday night. Nine other gunshot victims over the weekend were minors.
Ten children under 18 have died in Chicago gun violence since June 20, according to Chicago Sun-Times records.
The weekend ended up being more deadly than Independence Day weekend in 2019, when five people were killed and 65 others wounded. In 2018, 14 people killed and 87 wounded citywide in holiday weekend shootings.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot prepared for the historically violent weekend by deploying an extra 1,500 Chicago police officers — something the city did in 2019 — but the gun violence continued unabated.
Two more children killed
On Saturday night, 7-year-old Natalia Wallace died after being shot while visiting her grandmother at a party in Austin.
She was outside where kids were riding on bicycles when three gunmen stepped out of a car and let off more than 20 shots in the 100 block of North Latrobe Avenue, Chicago police said.
Natalia died at the scene of a gunshot to her head, officials said. Police were reviewing video from the scene and have taken a person of interest in for questioning.
Natalia was about to enter the 2nd grade at Crown Community Academy of Fine Arts in Little Village, according to a school official.
“She was a really good kid — an angel,” said the official, who asked not to be named. “She had a lot of family at the school. Everyone in her class would’ve said she was their friend.”
Nathan Wallace, the girl’s father, said at a news conference Sunday he’d hugged her goodbye just 10 minutes before the shooting occurred.
“I just wanted her to have a chance at life,” Wallace said. “Whatever she wanted to do, I was going to be there no matter what. To see my daughter on the table with a gunshot wound to the forehead, that’ll change somebody’s life.”
He said he’d heard about other children being shot in recent weeks, but didn’t think about it until it was his own daughter killed. He called for others in the community to take a more active, personal role in confronting the gun violence crisis.
“We need help finding her killers,” he said. “Kids can’t be out here playing without worrying about people shooting. It hurts me that my youngest daughter is no longer here, that I will not be able to talk to her, hold her, tell her bedtime stories, anything.”
In response to her killing, Lightfoot took to Twitter to say Natalia “joined a list of teenagers and children whose hopes and dreams were ended by the barrel of a gun. We cannot grow numb to this. We are making progress in slowing shootings, but we have to do better, every single one of us.”
Also Saturday night, 14-year-old Vernado Jones Jr., died after being among eight people shot, three others fatally, in Englewood on the South Side, officials said.
Four gunmen walked up to a large gathering in the 6100 block of South Carpenter Street and opened fire, police said. Jones, of West Lawn, died at Comer Children’s Hospital, according to the medical examiner’s office.
The shooting also wounded two boys, 11 and 15 years old, police said.
Activists demand ‘law and order’
Community activist Andrew Holmes announced Sunday a $2000 reward for “information leading to the arrest and conviction” in the case of Natalia Wallace.
“Let’s stop pointing fingers and get these shooters off the streets,” Holmes said at a news conference Sunday in Austin, “because with the technology we have in this city, there’s enough cameras and enough citizens around here that’s seen something.”
Also Sunday, several community activists demanded federal funding to help with the “out of control” gun violence, while also accusing the mayor of turning her back on police.
In a news conference in Little Village, Raul Montes Jr. called the weekend gun violence a “carbon copy” of the last few weeks and blamed Lightfoot for allowing protests to devolve into looting while “giving a nod to Antifa,” a far-left anti-fascist group.
Another activist, Jacqueline Baez of Belmont Cragin, said residents are scared to go outside and called for increased police funding.
“Here we are again, another bloody weekend in Chicago. Our innocent children are dying,” Baez said.
Baez dismissed the calls of other activists to defund police departments, a refrain of nationwide protests since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“Defunding police is the stupidest thing to say,” Baez said. “We need police. We need to feel safe in our communities ... I don’t feel safe letting my kids play outside.”
‘When you shoot children, we’ve lost it all’
Another activist, Frank Coconate, while acknowledging the extra officers over the holiday weekend, said it’s not just about having more police.
“It’s about cooperation; we need to build a bridge between community and police,” Coconate said.
“People in Pilsen and Little Village, there’s no bond with police. There’s a fear of talking with them, and that’s a huge problem. Here they’re scared. It’s good to have those [extra cops], but let’s have those cops walk the streets and talk with people ... There should be more invested in having Chicago police working with the community.”
Coconate said it’s up to the mayor — and for citizens to lay on the pressure — to stop the violence.
“When you shoot children, we’ve lost it all. And the mayor holds the bag now ... This has been going on every weekend, and now what’s really rubbing me — it’s children ... That poor little girl playing on a holiday weekend dies. That shouldn’t be happening. We are, as citizens, are to blame. We’re not working hard enough.”
Three weekends of gun violence
The last three weekends in Chicago have been especially deadly for children.
Last week, 1-year-old Sincere A. Gaston was killed when someone opened fire on his mother’s car as they drove home from a laundromat in Englewood. Lena Nunez, 10, was killed in Logan Square when a bullet came through her window and struck her.
Over Father’s Day weekend, Mekhi James, 3 years old, was fatally shot while riding in an SUV with his father in Austin when someone opened fire on them from another vehicle. Amaria Jones, 13, died after she was struck by a stray bullet in a shooting that also wounded two boys on the West Side. They were among 104 people shot that weekend, 15 of them fatally.
Contributing: Sam Kelly, Luke Wilusz, Sun-Times Wire