For those living in the East Garfield Park neighborhood where 14 were shot, guns and violence are a daily ordeal
“A group of young kids on the east end of the block stand in the street and pull guns out and won’t let you pass,” one neighbor said.
The block of three-flats down the street from where 14 people were shot Monday night — including three kids — is so rife with violence that drivers have been seen throwing their cars into reverse down the one-way street after being waved away at gunpoint.
“A group of young kids on the east end of the block stand in the street and pull guns out and won’t let you pass,” said a person who’s familiar with the 2700 block of West Flournoy Street in East Garfield Park.
“It’s a terrible block. Just horrible,” said the person, who asked not to be identified. Gunfire is a daily occurrence, the person added. When the police come, they get yelled at and spit on.
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The shooting occurred around 9 p.m. around the corner at the intersection of Polk Street and California Avenue as people celebrated Halloween and others gathered for a vigil and balloon release, Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said at a news conference shortly after the shooting.
“It’s over by three seconds,” Brown said outside Stroger Hospital, where many of the wounded were taken. “The car’s pulling out after driving by and shooting randomly into the crowd.”
The wounded children — 3, 11 and 13 years old — were admitted to hospitals in serious condition, Brown said. The other victims ranged in age from 31 to 56, and two of them were listed in critical condition, police said.
A woman was struck by a car while trying to escape the shooting, police said. She was in fair condition with scrapes on her body.
No one was in custody and police said Tuesday that a motive was still unclear.
The shooting happened two blocks south of the Eisenhower Expressway. Flournoy is a one-way street lined with brick and stone three-flats, some relatively new. There’s a church on the block and an abandoned basketball court.
The neighborhood is in one of the most violent police beats in the city, among 55 that have been targeted with extra resources by police over the last year, according to data kept by the Sun-Times.
Since last April, two people have been killed and two others wounded in four other shootings on that block, city data shows.
Even with the area’s long struggle with gun violence, Monday night’s shooting “is just mind-boggling,” said Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), who represents the neighborhood.
He said the crowd was gathered for a balloon release to honor a woman who died recently from an illness. As far as Ervin knows, no one in the crowd was affiliated with a street gang.
“These people, a lot of them are related,” he said. “They were just family members memorializing their loved one. … It was a lady that had passed.
“It’s just a reprehensible act,” the alderman added. “Not only as a community leader, but just as a man and as a Black man, that cannot go unanswered.”
Ervin said he is asking religious leaders to gather at the site at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
The chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus, Ervin said he also plans to convene a meeting of “Black leadership” on Saturday at Manley Career Academy High School, 2935 W. Polk. He said he hopes the meeting will produce a “unified cohesive plan of action for our community.”
“If these types of incidents aren’t a wake-up call to Black folks in Chicago, I don’t know what else is,” Ervin said, his voice rising in anger. “Three children shot. Several women. Not involved in any illegal activity, but just mourning and celebrating a life of a loved one.”
“If people can’t do that, we’re in worse shape [than we thought]. We’ve got to dig deep and channel this energy into something positive,” the alderman continued. “We have to come together to have this conversation. It may not be the most pleasant conversation. But it’s one that’s necessary.”
The area where the shooting occurred already receives added resources — like stepped-up police presence and help with jobs, housing and programming — under initiatives aimed at tamping down crime in some of the most violent neighborhoods.
While the city logged 580 murders and more than 3,000 shooting victims through October, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Brown frequently have touted declining numbers in these targeted communities.
East Garfield Park had 14 homicides and 80 nonfatal shootings through Oct. 28, according to a Sun-Times analysis of the most recent available city data. That’s down from 29 homicides and 124 nonfatal shootings at the same time last year.
Damien Morris, senior director of violence prevention at Breakthrough Urban Ministries, said older community members are “fed up” with the gun violence and growing more fearful they could fall victim.
“The consensus is that anybody is getting shot now,” Morris said. “It’s not so much specific targets. And so that’s the frustrating thing about that. It’s like, nobody is safe if you’re in a certain area.”
Members of his team responded after the shooting and are now making house calls and putting together care packages for victims’ families. He and other outreach workers were also holding an event to engage with residents after schools let out.
“Just in case they have any psychological trauma just from the incident, we’re hoping that our presence should bring some type of calmness to them,” he said.
Monday night’s shooting is the worst mass attack in Chicago since 15 people were shot, two fatally, in Greater Grand Crossing in March of 2021. Fifteen people were also shot in July 2020 outside a funeral home in Gresham.
Asked about the number of people shot, Brown urged reporters Monday night to “hold off on hyperbole right now.”
“Right now, people are in there getting treated, some may be fighting for their lives,” he said. “Let’s right now treat this in the most urgent way. We’re trying to find an offender.”
Brown said the shooting was captured on police surveillance video, which investigators are reviewing. Detectives were also waiting for victims to finish being treated so they can interview them.
“We don’t know enough about this, whether it involved a gang conflict or some personal conflict yet,” Brown said hours after the shooting. “And obviously we’re deploying extra police resources in the area to make sure that we can prevent any retaliation if that’s something that’s real.”
A reward of up to $15,000 is being offered for information leading to charges or conviction. Anyone with information was asked to submit a tip to cpdtip.com.
In earlier versions of this story, the address of the shooting was given as the 2700 block of West Flournoy Street, an address later corrected by Chicago police.