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Chicago’s top cop calls Chicago’s most violent weekend so far this year ‘despicable’

Chicago police work the scene of a shooting in the 6300 block of South Seeley Avenue on Saturday, April 6, 2019. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Calling Chicago’s most violent weekend so far this year “despicable,” police Superintendent Eddie Johnson stuck to the department’s usual explanation for what went wrong, blaming the flow of illegal guns and a too lenient court system.

“Unfortunately, over the past 72 hours in Chicago, we saw a despicable level of violence,” Johnson said at a news conference Monday at police headquarters. “Weekends like this remind us all of the challenges that we face and that they are complex and profound.”

According to the department, at least 52 people were shot, 10 fatally, from 6 p.m. Friday until midnight Monday. More than half the victims — 31 to be specific — were wounded during a 12-hour burst of gunfire from Friday evening to Saturday morning in areas of the South and West sides that have long struggled with crime, poverty and hopelessness. Four of them died.

Police officials said the violence over the weekend came amid gang conflicts, drug-dealing and personal disputes that went awry.

Johnson said some shootings took place with officers a short distance from the gunfire. Austin District Cmdr. Ernest Cato, for instance, was a half a block away when shooting erupted, prompting him to join his officers from the West Side district on foot patrol, according to Johnson.

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“That just shows you how emboldened some of these individuals are,” the superintendent, flanked by seven of his top deputies, told reporters. “And it’s ridiculous that we just cannot get this right in terms of holding people accountable and finding alternatives for certain individuals.”

Johnson has long blamed the unrelenting violence on the flow of illegal guns on city streets and a court system that allows too many criminals caught with those weapons to be bonded out prematurely.

“We know who a lot of these people are,” said Johnson, using a phrase he once said frequently but hadn’t for some time. “And how do we know that? Because we keep arresting them over and over and over and over and over again, and it’s just a vicious cycle.”

So far in 2019, homicides and shooting have actually fallen for the third consecutive year since a disastrous 2016 saw the worst violence in almost two decades. Through May 26, homicides dropped about 10% from a year earlier, while shootings declined 13 percent, department statistics show.

The last killings from the weekend happened about 6 a.m. Sunday in the Old Town Triangle neighborhood just north of the downtown area. Two men were found dead inside a car riddled with at least a dozen bullet holes in the 100 block of West North Avenue, police said.

The driver, Tavion Matthews, 22, was shot several times in the back, and a passenger, Marcus Walker Jr., 25, also suffered several gunshot wounds. They were pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

The two were shot when at least two people in a white car traveling west on North Avenue opened fire on their car, police said. The shooters drove off north on LaSalle Street, police said.

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Less than two hours earlier, Denise Weekly, 26, was shot and killed in the 4900 block of South Princeton Avenue in the Fuller Park community on the South Side, police said. She was struck in the chest and taken to the University of Chicago Hospital, where she died, police said.

Asked if the Police Department’s strategies worked over the weekend or needed improvement, Johnson said he and his command staff are always looking for ways to be more effective. He extolled their work effort and commitment.

“These people that you see up here with me today from Memorial Day to today probably hadn’t had a day off,” he said. “So if that doesn’t give you the sense that they’re committed to what we do, I don’t know what will.”

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© 2019 Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.