U.S. Attorney: We can’t accept it being OK for kids to die

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U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon spoke to the City Club of Chicago Monday. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon had already spoken once to the City Club of Chicago about violent crime.

But when he returned Monday, the topic remained the same. Instead of discussing Islamic State terrorists or public corruption, he pointed to a screen filled with children’s faces.

“Every face you see on this screen is a child shot and killed this year in the city of Chicago,” Fardon said.

The top fed told a crowd at a City Club luncheon he wasn’t there to “offer sound bite solutions.” He simply asked the people in his audience to think about the issue of gun violence from their perspective  — and about how they could keep the conversation moving forward. Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez were among the attendees.

“For too long, gun crime has been tearing at the fabric of our social contract in this city,” Fardon said. “These are our kids. These are our neighborhoods. This problem hits the heart of who we are and who we want to be. As a city, we cannot abide our Chicago being one where it’s OK for kids to die.”

Fardon mentioned several shooting deaths, including the Fourth of July shooting death of 7-year-old Amari Brown. He also pointed to prosecutions by his office, such as the conviction earlier this year of Nathaniel Hoskins, the so-called “king” of the Imperial Insane Vice Lords. He also mentioned charges brought in June against a man whose heroin market in the North Lawndale neighborhood had customers lined up around the corner in broad daylight.

He illustrated how shooting deaths have corresponded with disputes on social media.

Fardon also talked about the national debate about trust between minority communities and law enforcement. He said police officers “fundamentally deserve a presumption of our respect and trust,” but he said young men of color “too often inherit a legacy of crime and prison.”

Finally, Fardon embraced three “hard truths” outlined earlier this year by FBI Director James Comey. He said much of law enforcement’s history on issues of race is ugly. He said everyone needs to be honest about the “widespread existence of unconscious bias.” And he said cynicism can build among members of law enforcement over time, which can lead to “mental shortcuts.”

“Those are Jim Comey’s hard truths,” Fardon said. “And they’re mine. And I think they belong to us all.”

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