Chicago looks for answers to gun terror

By David Usborne

An 11-year-old girl’s death adds to the anguish in a city gripped again by out-of-control violence

Chicago's Cook County Jail holds some of those committing gun violence; many more are still on the city's streets. Picture / AP
Chicago's Cook County Jail holds some of those committing gun violence; many more are still on the city's streets. Picture / AP

Residents of Chicago were agonising again yesterday on what ails their city after another weekend of gun violence in which the victims included an 11-year-old girl shot dead while making chocolate and marshmallow snacks during a sleepover.

She was one of four people slain by gunfire; another 36 were wounded.

Friends and relatives of Shamiya Adams said she was in the sitting room of a friend's house when a stray bullet from a shooting outside struck her in the head. "Everybody was in the room," Aaron Hill, who lives at the house, but wasn't there at the time of the shooting, told the Chicago Tribune. "They were just doing their girlie things. They heard shots and a bullet came through the window."

Other witnesses said the bullet passed through a wall of the house.

The death of Shamiya, whose mother had rarely let her out of her home because she feared for her safety, is being cited by some as a symbol of the violence that has again gripped America's third-biggest city this northern summer.

"If you can't even be at home, where can you be safe?" asked Terrence Redmond, her 32-year-old cousin.

Two federal agencies, the FBI and the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, announced plans to send additional manpower to Chicago to assist its police department over the remainder of the summer after the July 4 holiday weekend, during which 82 people were shot - 17 fatally - in four days.

Chicago's mayor, Rahm Emanuel - the former chief of staff for President Barack Obama - has been claiming that violent crime has declined since his election in 2011. Overall homicide rates could be lower than last year and will certainly not match those of the 1990s.

But such statistics will be little comfort for those now on the front lines of the violence.

"The familiarity of laughter has been replaced by the familiarity of gunfire," Emanuel said after Shamiya's death.

Also during the weekend, 24-year-old Richard Velasquez, was shot in the chest and killed in a bar on the southwest side of the city. Another man, 21-year-old Jaquan Hard, was shot in the head and killed as he and a friend got into a taxi on the West Side. The friend and the driver were wounded. A fourth victim was found dead in a car in an alley frequented by gang members.

Emanuel has been trying to get the Illinois state legislature to pass stricter gun-control laws. While Chicago has taken steps to restrict gun sales, police say firearms flow in from dealers in southern Illinois and neighbouring Indiana.

Facing an election next year, Emanuel has seen his poll numbers sink this year, particularly among African-Americans, a vital constituency if he is to serve another term.

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a1 at 20 Sep 2014 20:44:01 Processing Time: 541ms