Chicago has some of the strictest gun control laws in the country.
– 13 shot in park: ‘My younger brother was on the floor’ (Chicago Tribune, Sep 20, 2013):
Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said a mass shooting at a South Side park shows why assault weapons should be banned, saying it was a “miracle” no one was killed when someone opened fire with a high-powered rifle at a pick-up basketball game.
“A military-grade weapon on the streets of Chicago is simply unacceptable,” McCarthy told a news conference this morning, 12 hours after a 3-year-old boy and 12 other people were shot during at Cornell Square Park. All are expected to survive.
“It’s a miracle there has been no fatality,” he said. “Illegal guns, illegal guns, illegal guns drive violence.”
At least one gunman, maybe as many as three, walked up to the park’s basketball court in the 1800 block of West 51st Street around 10:15 p.m. Thursday and opened fire, police said. Thirteen people who were on the court or were watching the game were hit, many of them in the arms or legs.
The 3-year-old, Deonta Howard, was standing on the court and was shot near the ear, the bullet exiting through his cheek, according to police and relatives. His family said the boy is expected to recover but will need plastic surgery.
Three of those wounded, including Deonta, were in serious to critical condition this morning. The others ranged from fair to good condition, including a 15-year-old boy and a 17-year-old girl.
Police believe the shooting stemmed from an ongoing dispute between the Black P. Stones and Gangster Disciples, a law enforcement source said.
It was not known if any of the victims were intended targets, but McCarthy said “there were members of gangs on the scene and there were gang members among the victims.” McCarthy said at least 16 rounds were fired and there could be as many as three offenders.
The park is in an area considered by Chicago police to be a “high gang conflict area”, but it is not in an impact zone flooded by officers to deter crime, McCarthy said. The nearest impact zones are three blocks to the north and three blocks to the south.
The park was slated to close at 11 p.m. McCarthy said the residents had a right to be outside on a warm September night and enjoy a basketball game. “This is not something we can accept and say is OK in a civilized society,” he said.
Witnesses described a burst of rapid fire. “I think it was like an AK,” said one neighbor. “Man, it was a lot of shots. Man, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. A little boy got hit in the face.”
Another neighbor said he heard as many as 20 shots. “I was across the park and I heard the shots and I came over and there was a lot of people down. It happened so fast. They were just playing ball, like they do everyday.”
The first paramedics found more than a dozen people lying across the rust-colored court. One person lay near a bicycle that was on its side. A pair of white gym shoes were left near an out-of-bounds line.
Ambulances continued to arrive a half hour after the shootings as wounded people were brought out of the park on stretchers. About 60 police officers converged on the park and crime lab investigators combed the scene. Witnesses say Deonta was the first to be carried away.
He was taken in critical condition to Mount Sinai Hospital, police said. Family members said the boy nicknamed Tay Man, will need plastic surgery.
“He tried to get up and go, he’s not trying to be pinned down by nobody,’’ Semehca Nunn, the boy’s grandmother, said after seeing him at the hospital. “He’s not your average 3-year-old.
“He’s friendly for the most part, very outgoing, outspoken,’’ Nunn said. “He likes the limelight, he’ll let you know who he is.”
Nunn choked up as she called for an end to the violence in her neighborhood. “They need to stop, they need to stop,” Nunn said, the last word coming out as almost a shriek as she closed her eyes and collapsed crying.
The boy’s older brother, Jamarrie Toney, 9, returned to the park with his aunt this morning and said he still hasn’t seen his brother. “I just miss him,’’ he said.