Michael Lucas, 61, was sitting on his front stoop in Chicago's Burnside neighbourhood, watching his 3-year-old great-nephew play in the afternoon sun, when without warning two men ran toward the house and opened fire on him.

One shot struck Lucas. As the men advanced up the sidewalk, they pushed Lucas' great-nephew out of the way and shot Lucas three more times, family members said. The attackers fled in a red SUV, and Lucas died on the stoop from gunshot wounds to the neck and head.

Lucas was one of 19 people shot on Tuesday - nine of them fatally - in what the Chicago Tribune has called the city's deadliest day in more than a decade.

Chicago has experienced a surge in violence in the past year, much of it concentrated on the city's South Side, where Lucas lived. A staggering 2500 people have been shot in the city since the beginning of the year, more than in any year at this point since the 1990s. There have been at least 426 homicides in 2016, far more than in New York, which has three times Chicago's population.

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Tuesday marked the most homicides Chicago has seen in a single day since July 5, 2003, when 10 people were killed, according to the Tribune.

The Chicago Police Department hasn't offered an official response to the day's violence. A spokesperson for the department didn't immediately respond to a request for comment yesterday.

Lucas, a father of three and grandfather of seven, didn't appear to be the intended target, police said. His family members described him as a jack of all trades and a handyman who played blues guitar and liked to drink beer on his front porch.

"Pops wasn't a bad person," Lucas's son Carl told WGN. "He never did nothing to nobody."

Lucas's great-nephew wasn't harmed in the shooting, relatives said.

Across town in Chicago's Lawndale neighbourhood, a 10-year-old boy wasn't as lucky. Tavon Tanner was playing with his twin sister on the front porch of their home when someone on the street fired nine shots, with at least one round striking the boy in the back, the Tribune reported.

Tanner's mother, Mellanie Washington, said the boy staggered through the front door, gasping for air and yelling, "I can't breathe." His sister held his hand and told him, "Twin don't leave me" over and over, according to Washington.

Tanner was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where doctors removed his spleen and operated on his kidneys and other organs, leaving a bullet inside, Washington said. He remained in critical condition, the Tribune reported.

Earlier in the evening in the same part of the city two other people were shot and killed.

Irell Mitchell, 22, was playing basketball in a park in North Lawndale when someone shot at him from a passing car, DNAinfo reported. He died in the hospital from gunshot wounds to the arm and back, police said.

Mitchell's godfather, Ken Owens, said he had moved out of the neighborhood, but often came back to shoot hoops with his friends.

"I know every time this happens, everyone starts saying 'Oh, he was a good kid,' " Owens said. "But in this case it's true - he really was a good kid."

Less than two hours earlier and 1.5km away, John Hosey, 28, was shot while he was driving, the Chicago Sun Times reported. Police said he was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Other parts of the city weren't spared the violence either. On Chicago's Far South Side, a drive-by shooting left one man dead and two others critically injured. Police said Anthony Hatchett, 44, was standing on the pavement when someone opened fire out of the window of a passing blue van. Hatchett died in the hospital from a gunshot wound to the head. A 28-year-old and a 30-year-old were struck as well, and taken to the hospital, where they were listed in critical condition.

And in West Town, near Chicago's North Side, a 25-year-old father died after being shot in his car. William Villa was in his SUV stopped at a red light when another vehicle pulled up next to him and someone inside shot him in his head, killing him, according to police, who said Villa was a known gang member.

Law enforcement agencies in metropolitan areas around the country say they've seen upticks in homicides and other violent crimes over this point last year. More than two-dozen police departments in large US cities reported that as of June 2016 homicides were up over the first half of last year - in some cases by dozens, according to a Washington Post analysis of law enforcement data.

Orlando led the pack, with a 712 per cent increase over last year - a figure driven up dramatically by the Pulse nightclub mass shooting that claimed the lives of 49 clubgoers in June.

Chicago, however, saw the biggest increase in the raw number of homicides. In the first half of 2016, the city counted 316 killings, up from 211 at the same time last year. At this rate, the city could pass 600 homicides by the end of the year, more than any year since 2003, the Post reported.

News of the latest violence fell hard on the Rev Tim Williams, who said he knew Irell Mitchell and Tavon Tanner, two of the victims from the West Side shootings.

Williams told the Tribune that he was a mentor to Mitchell through church and had gone to visit his family in the hospital. He said he returned home to see Tanner, who lives next door to him, playing outside, kicking a gate in front of his house. Moments later, bullets hit Tanner in the back.

Williams said his mother had just come inside from choir rehearsal when the shots rang out.

"I walked her to the bedroom and then pa-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta," Williams told the Tribune. "That could have been my momma."