Chicago park shootings: 13 in critical condition after gang violence

Chicago park shootings injure 13 people in a late-night attack in a south side Chicago neighborhood. A witness says: It's 'just gang-banging stuff. It’s what they do.'

Chandler West/Photo/Sun-Times Media/AP
Bystanders convene Thursday night, Sept. 19, near the scene of a shooting at Cornell Square Park in Chicago's Back of the Yard neighborhood. Thirteen people were injured. The attack is the latest in a city that has struggled to stop street violence.

Thirteen people, including a 3-year-old boy, were wounded during a late-night attack in a south side Chicago park on Thursday in what police say was a gang-related shooting.

Two gunmen opened fire on a group gathered on a basketball court in the Back of Yards neighborhood about 10:15 p.m., according to the Chicago Sun Times.

Three victims are in critical condition, including the 3-year-old, Deonta Howard, according to an AP report.

The boy’s uncle, Julian Harris, said dreadlocked gunmen in a gray sedan fired at him on the corner of Wood and 51st before shooting up the nearby Cornell Square Park.

“They hit the light pole next to me, but I ducked down and ran into the house,” Mr. Harris said to the Sun Times. "They’ve been coming ‘round here looking for people to shoot every night – just gang-banging stuff. It’s what they do.”

Police have not discussed the details of the shooting, though they have said the violence was gang-related, according to the Sun Times.

A police department spokesman said no arrests have been made in the shooting, and victims were being interviewed to try to determine the circumstances of the attack.

About 60 police officers were on the scene at the peak of activity.

This attack is part of a recent spike in gun violence in Chicago originating from hundreds of gang factions established in block-by-block territories on the south and west sides of the city. An outpouring of gun-related violence over Labor Day weekend resulted in eight deaths and more than 20 injuries.

Chicago police have lately been flooding crime "hot spots" with extra patrols and manpower, in a bid to curb the rampant street violence. The number of homicides in Chicago topped 500 last year, making 2012 the deadliest year in the city since 2008. A recent FBI crime report shows that the Windy City's murder rate is disproportionately high compared with many other cities. New York City, where the population is three times that of Chicago, recorded 419 murders in 2012.

Francis John, who has lived in the Back of the Yards neighborhood since 1983, told the Sun Times she was surprised by the Thursday shootings. The neighborhood has gone from good, to bad, to better during her time living there, she said.

Ms. John was upstairs in her apartment near the park when she heard gunfire. “It was a lot of boom, boom, boom.” John then went outside to see what had happened. “A lot of youngsters were running scared,” she said.

“People are watching the community,” John said, referencing new police watch efforts at Chicago crime hot spots. “I thought [the shootings] were over. But despite this incident, it’s not as bad as it used to be.”

By 12:30 a.m. Friday, police investigators had finished combing the crime scene. About two hours after the shooting, Chicago firefighters began cleaning blood from the basketball court at the park.

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