Dozens shot in Chicago in burst of weekend gun violence
A burst of shootings over the weekend left at least 11 people dead and dozens more wounded in Chicago, the latest evidence of runaway gun violence in the third largest US city.
Police blamed much of the carnage on gangs, which run rampant in some of the city’s poorest and predominantly minority neighborhoods on the west and south sides.
At one point, 40 people were shot in the span of seven hours, according to a tally compiled by the Chicago Tribune, with innocent bystanders as well as alleged gang members among the casualties.
Police said in some of the cases shooters sprayed bullets indiscriminately into crowds in rival territories. The Tribune counted a total of more than 70 people shot between Friday evening and early Monday morning.
The weekend violence stood in contrast to a general decline in crimes in the city where shootings are down 30 percent and murders down 25 percent, according to police.
Nevertheless, Chicago’s official murder count, at 310 killings before the weekend, was the highest in the country and far eclipsed those of America’s two largest cities — New York and Los Angeles.
“Incidents of either random or targeted shootings on our streets are totally unacceptable,” said Fred Waller, a Chicago Police Department commander.
Violence in the Midwestern city often spikes in the summer months, when the warm weather means more people are outside. Waller said there were a number of outdoor events over the weekend that were vulnerable to gang-related revenge attacks.
“What we have are multiple areas with crowds,” Waller said. “They take advantage of that opportunity.”
The latest spasm of bloodshed occurred at the same time as the famed Lollapalooza music festival was taking over a large swath of the city’s downtown, requiring a heavy police presence.
The festival was not affected by the violence, Waller said. The shootings surged in the early morning hours, well after the end of the festival’s daily schedule of performances.
Chicago’s gun violence has been the subject of two high-profile protests this summer, in which demonstrators temporarily blocked major expressways to call attention to their demands for more investment in poor communities.
Federal authorities have increased their efforts in the city, creating a special task force in cooperation with local police to target those who repeatedly commit gun crimes. (AFP)