At least 15 people were shot, two fatally, after gunfire broke out at a Park Manor business where a party was being held early Sunday, according to the Chicago Fire Department.
A fight broke out between several people attending the party about 4:40 a.m. in the 6700 block of South South Chicago Avenue when gunfire erupted, Chicago police said. Fifteen people were struck, ranging in age from 20 to 44 years old.
Two people were pronounced dead, Fire Department spokesman Larry Merritt said.
They were identified as Rayneesha Dotson, 30, and Lionel Darling, 39, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. Both were pronounced dead at the scene at 4:55 a.m.
Two people were critically wounded in the shooting, and three more were in serious condition, police said. The rest of the wounded victims were listed in good condition.
Police spokesman Tom Ahern said investigators are still trying to determine whether there were multiple shooters or whether gunfire was exchanged.
The shooting happened at the South Side Think Tank, 6798 S. South Chicago Ave., where stray shoes could be seen strewn along the sidewalk amid what appeared to be a pool of blood. Officers placed at least 10 evidence markers outside the building, but most investigators appeared to be examining the inside of the business.
During a Sunday morning news conference near the scene of the shooting, Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said four guns were recovered, but no one has been taken into custody. He noted that investigators are now “following up on several different leads” that haven’t been confirmed.
“Detectives are continuing to do their preliminary investigation and their interviews, but several of the witnesses who were wounded are still in surgery and have yet to be interviewed,” Brown said. “So more to come as far as any kind of motive or any kind of additional evidence.”
Brown said the site of the mass shooting is a garage that houses a towing company and doubles as an event space for parties.
“There’s actually a bar set up inside, so at one point it may have been an old lounge that is obviously converted just for the pop-up party,” Brown said. “We don’t know what the celebration associated with this party was.”
Brown promised city officials would conduct a “deep dive” into the property’s history and determine whether the owner has been cited for previous violations.
South Side Think Tank isn’t currently registered with the Illinois secretary of state’s office, though the company holds a business license with the city of Chicago. The company’s focus is business and management consulting, according to the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.
Jerome Riley is the only name listed in the company’s city records. He’s also listed in state records as the registered manager of Taboo Lounge LLC, which shared the same address as South Side Think Tank and was involuntarily dissolved last February.
A phone number for South Side Think Tank has been disconnected, and Riley couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. The deed for the building is held by Stonedry LLC, which is located at 2035 W. Giddings St., according to records kept by the Cook County clerk’s office.
In a late morning tweet, Mayor Lori Lightfoot offered prayers to those killed and injured in “the outrageous shooting attack that occurred in Park Manor.”
“It is tragic that the warmth of a spring day, at a time we all crave the company of family and friends, resulted in shooting and death,” Lightfoot tweeted. “There is simply no place for this in Chicago, and I implore those who committed these murders to look into themselves and do the right thing by turning themselves in and answering for their crimes.”
Later Sunday, community activist and former mayoral candidate Ja’Mal Green held a news conference outside South Side Think Tank, criticizing the city’s police spending and urging leaders to instead prioritize mental health treatment and conflict resolution to address violence.
Green noted that he and his team spoke to “folks who were at the party” and some family members, saying the shooting was sparked by a “petty” dispute that escalated into an “exchange of gunfire between a few different people.”
“If you know any of the people that were shooting in this party last night, please speak up because we have to get them off of the streets,” said Green, who tied the shooting to what he views as a pervasive mental health crisis plaguing the city.
“Obviously we know there are real issues going on in peoples’ heads that we’ve got to start to tackle,” he added. “Because if they think that that’s the way to solve issues, then we’re going to have a real bloody summer.”
The shooting was one of the most violent in recent Chicago memory, in terms of the number of people hurt. Last July, 15 people were shot outside a Gresham funeral home, but none of the victims died.
In 2013, a mass shooting wounded 13 people, including a 3-year-old boy, in Cornell Park near 51st and Wood in Back of the Yards.
Last December, six people were hurt after gunfire broke out at an overnight party in a South Side salon in the Burnside neighborhood.
So far this year, officers have responded to 393 shooting incidents across the city through March 7, according to police statistics. That’s a 31% increase over the same period last year, which saw 301 shooting incidents.