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At least 4 dead, 4 wounded in shooting at gathering, Chicago police say

Chicago police work at the scene of a mass shooting in the Englewood area of Chicago. (Jose M. Osorio?Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Eight people were shot Tuesday morning at a gathering in a home in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood on the South Side, with four of the victims dead at the scene and at least two others in critical condition, according to police.

Officers were called to the 6200 block of South Morgan Street at 5:45 a.m. for a report of multiple people shot, said Chicago police Superintendent David Brown, who answered questions during a 10:30 a.m. news conference at the Englewood District Station.

Of the four people found dead at the scene, three were women, according to Brown, who said the ages of the dead were not known. Four others were taken to hospitals, with two in critical condition and two in unknown condition, according to police. It wasn’t believed that any of the injured or dead were juveniles, but ages were not immediately available for all of those shot, according to a police media notification.

Authorities later said that a 2-year-old girl was taken to a hospital for evaluation “out of an abundance of caution” but that she had not been injured. She was inside the home when the gunfire began, Brown said.

At least one of the victims likely lived at the home, Brown said. He did not say which victim or whether they were among the injured or killed.

Of those known to be wounded:

— A woman whose age wasn’t known was shot and was in critical condition at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

— A man, 23, arrived at St. Bernard Hospital with a gunshot wound to the back. He was transferred to the University of Chicago Medical Center, where he had been listed in critical condition.

— One man whose age was not known had been shot in the back of the head and was at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn in unknown condition.

— A man, 25, was shot in the back of the head and was also at Advocate Christ in unknown condition.

There had been a gathering at the home when an argument began and shots were fired, police said. Brown also said there have been previous reports of parties being held at the location, with loud music reported on at least one occasion.

A witness told police they heard gunshots about 2 a.m. and ShotSpotter, the city’s gunfire detection system, captured the sounds of gunfire outside the home, Brown said. It wasn’t clear whether officers responded to the home at that time.

When more gunfire rang out about 5:30 a.m., officers responded and found the victims, Brown said.

Hours later, yellow and red police tape remained visible, strung across Morgan Street at 63rd, about a block away from where the shooting took place.

Reporters and neighbors stood near the tape as evidence technicians began their work at the location. People watched from their yards or porches as the technicians worked.

One woman wearing a yellow shirt walked under the tape and became hysterical. Two officers walked over to her and tried to reassure her before street activist Andrew Holmes and others came up to calm her. Others watched as she screamed out, “That’s my baby. Oh, God. … Where’s my baby?”

A man driving a silver Dodge Ram pulled the truck up to the sidewalk where the woman was standing and tried to usher her to the passenger seat. Two younger women walked toward her and the woman in yellow began to yell at them to get away.

Sheron Jackson, 59, said two of her daughters, 37 and 32, had been at the gathering but left around 11:30 p.m. before the shooting occurred. A group often meets at the house to hang out on the porch and smoke marijuana, she said.

Her daughters had a friend who they left at the gathering; they had been trying to find out if that friend was among those shot.

“I’m glad (my daughters) weren’t in there, but my heart goes out to the ones who didn’t make it,” Jackson said.

Jackson, who has lived in the neighborhood for 40 years, said she had been sleeping when the shooting happened but she awoke to the sound of a helicopter above her home.

“Our people are getting killed. Our babies getting killed,” she said. “And for what?”

Donnis Carter, 60, who stood with Jackson, also struggled to make sense of the shooting.

“What in the world is going on?” he said. Carter also said the people who live on Morgan usually “mind their business. … It’s a family block.”

Outside the University of Chicago Medical Center, a reporter approached a group of about 10 people huddled together and asked them if they were there for any patients from the residence where the shooting occurred. A man from the group denied that they were.

Shortly afterward, a 45-year-old man walked away from all or some people from the group, after they moved across the street, and said his daughter, in her mid-20s, was one of the victims. He said she was going to be OK and that she had just gotten out of surgery.

He said she worked at Lawrence’s Fish & Shrimp, a restaurant in the Chinatown area.

After he walked away, a couple of young women in the group burst out in loud sobs. A few consoled one another. One sat on a curb along Maryland Avenue across from the U. of C. emergency room, looking at her phone.

Tuesday morning’s mass shooting is at least the third on the South Side in less than two weeks. Saturday morning, 10 people were shot, one fatally, near 75th Street and Prairie Avenue in the Chatham neighborhood. And on June 6, eight people were wounded in a shooting at a graduation party at 89th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue in the Burnside neighborhood.

Englewood, where Tuesday’s shooting occurred, falls within one of the city’s police districts that typically has the most shootings and homicides each year. Through Sunday, the district had 20 homicides, five fewer than the same period in 2020, Chicago police statistics show. But there were 129 total shootings — events in which at least one person was wounded or killed — compared with 111 last year, a 16% increase, the Police Department’s statistics through Sunday show.

Along with police, violence prevention organizations also launched a full response, immediately sending workers to the hospital and out to blocks near the shooting, said Autry Phillips, who is executive director of Target Area Development Corp.

Family members had been contacted for direct support, while street outreach teams were working to prevent a retaliation shooting, said Phillips, whose organization is part of Communities Partnering 4 Peace, a network of Chicago groups that coordinate immediate neighborhood-based responses to violence.

“We’ve been spread out since this morning,” Phillips said by phone. “We’re looking, listening and talking.”

At an unrelated news conference, Mayor Lori Lightfoot called the shooting “a tragedy that’s ripped apart families and inflicted intense trauma on several individuals.” She also extended her condolences “to the friends and families of those who have lost their lives in this unconscionable act of violence.”

Lightfoot is under intense pressure to curb city violence, which has spiked in the past year and a half. The mayor often has blamed the surge in violent crime on the pandemic and its ripple effects, such as the court system being largely closed in that time, but others question the city’s strategies and leadership.

The mayor said she spoke with several of her counterparts across the country regarding this weekend’s mass shooting in Austin, Texas, and she made a renewed plea for gun control, an argument she makes frequently — as did her predecessors Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Richard M. Daley.

“It tells us that we still have much work to do in our mission to end gun violence here in Chicago and in particular, to limit the access of individuals to illegal guns,” Lightfoot said.

Despite that, Lightfoot characterized the city as safe.

Asked whether the spike in violence will hurt Chicago’s reopening, Lightfoot said some areas of the city have “challenges,” but not all. Tuesday’s mass shooting happened in a house, not on the street, she said, citing preliminary information.

“The reality is, our city is safe,” Lightfoot said. “I stand by that.”

Lightfoot also said she fundamentally disagrees with a recent analysis by the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, headed by Kim Foxx, that the Police Department “is arresting the wrong people who possess guns.”

“We are a city that’s awash in illegal guns,” Lightfoot said. “Those illegal guns cause deep pain and injury and death, so the suggestion that somehow the Police Department is wasting its time arresting people who illegally possess firearms at the height of this crisis, I just fundamentally disagree with that.”

She was likely referencing last week’s presentation by Foxx’s office on gun crime data that included a section meant to debunk what it said was the “myth” that more policing is needed to reduce shootings. Brown made similar comments that seemed to indicate he believes Foxx’s office would like to decriminalize possession of illegal weapons.

“It’s ridiculous to think that we can decriminalize illegal possession of guns and be safer,” he said. “Why would anyone argue that illegal gun possession needs to be decriminalized? How could you sleep at night?”

Matthew Saniie, chief data officer for the state’s attorney’s office, analyzed graphs on gun arrests in Cook County, including one that he said showed Chicago police arresting more people for a gun crime than the number of shootings in Chicago. Another graph purportedly proved a large driver of that increase was what he deemed “nonviolent” gun arrests of those without prior convictions, while what he termed “violent” arrests by Chicago police have dipped.

“It’s not necessarily a question of arresting people; it’s a question of arresting the right people,” Saniie said.

Of those arrested without prior convictions, he added that “it’s very unlikely that a lot of these individuals that are getting arrested are involved in actual gun violence.”

In his news conference, Brown also said a high-capacity magazine had been used in Tuesday’s shooting, which meant the shooter was “able to do more harm to more people.” He made many of the same points as Lightfoot regarding illegal weapons, although no weapons had been recovered Tuesday so it was too soon to know whether the weapon used had been obtained illegally.

“What that tells us about the larger discussion about illegal guns is there’s way too many guns in the wrong hands in this city and the country,” he said.

Brown also repeated a common refrain about the number of illegal weapons recovered by Chicago officers each year, saying they take more guns off the street than authorities in New York City and Los Angeles combined.

“It’s just hard to fathom that the risk our officers take in recovering illegal guns,” he said. “The consequences on the back end of illegal gun possession is where we need the largest amount of help from our court system.”

Brown became particularly impassioned talking about illegal guns, saying, “Common sense is not so common,” and he challenged the logic of those who believe that illegal weapons make the city a safer place, calling the notion “ridiculous.” He said the addition of illegal weapons make nearly every situation inherently more dangerous, including road rage cases and incidents of domestic violence when there is a gun in the home.

“We should all know that illegal gun possession makes us less safe, not more safe. And I would argue the idea of decriminalizing illegal gun possession is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard in my nearly 40 years in law enforcement, particularly at a time when our country is seeing the most increase in violent crime in decades,” he said.

“I would ask those that argue that point to come to Englewood, come to this address on Morgan Street, and look these victims and their families in the eye and make the argument that illegal gun possession makes you safer and didn’t cause our grief this morning (or) the pain of these families,” Brown said.

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