Deadliest year in two decades: Chicago records 500 homicides in nine months

By Charlotte Willis

The Chicago Fire Department work on a gunshot victim at the scene of a double shooting in Ogden Park, in the Englewood neighbourhood of Chicago on Monday. Photo / AP
The Chicago Fire Department work on a gunshot victim at the scene of a double shooting in Ogden Park, in the Englewood neighbourhood of Chicago on Monday. Photo / AP

Chicago, the third largest city in the United States, recorded its 500th homicide of the year over the Labor Day weekend, making 2016 already the city's deadliest year in two decades.

A total of 13 people were killed over the course of the long weekend and at least 52 others were wounded in shootings across Chicago, according to police, making the Labor Day weekend the deadliest of the three US holiday weekends this summer.

This year's Memorial Day weekend saw 69 shot, six of them fatally, and the Fourth of July weekend recorded 66 shot, five of them fatal.

Among those shot over the weekend was a woman who was nine months pregnant.

A man holds a woman at the scene of a double shooting in Ogden Park. Photo / AP
A man holds a woman at the scene of a double shooting in Ogden Park. Photo / AP

Crystal Myers, 23, was wounded in the stomach on the same block where someone had been killed less than 20 hours earlier, theChicago Tribune reports. Ms Myers gave birth Tuesday morning, both she and her baby are in a stable condition.

The latest fatal shooting occurred about 10.45pm on Monday when someone in a mini-van opened fire on a group of teens and young men, police said.

Two 22-year-old men were killed in the incident. Three others, aged 16, 17, and 20, were seriously wounded. Authorities said one of the men killed was a documented gang member.

The city's grim toll comes after police recorded 92 murders in August, the deadliest month for Chicago since June 1996.

"It's not a police issue, it's a society issue," Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told reporters outside police headquarters on Tuesday, saying his department is doing everything it can to control the violence.

"Impoverished neighbourhoods, people without hope do these kinds of things.

"You show me a man that doesn't have hope, I'll show you one that's willing to pick up a gun and do anything with it.

"Those are the issues that's driving this violence. CPD is doing its job."

A 'Happy Birthday' sign hangs outside a residence near the scene of a shooting in Chicago over the Labor Day weekend. Photo / AP
A 'Happy Birthday' sign hangs outside a residence near the scene of a shooting in Chicago over the Labor Day weekend. Photo / AP

After the weekend's bloodshed, homicides now stand at 512 for the year, according to data collected and analysed by the Tribune. There were 491 homicides in total last year, with more than 2930 people shot this year in Chicago already.

"There are 500 more people that were in the city that are no longer here because of useless violence ... people don't have regard for life anymore," resident Stephanie Armas said.

Homicides and shootings in Chicago continue to far outpace those in New York and Los Angeles, despite being bigger cities, and the Chicago Police Department (CPD) recovers more illegal handguns than both major US cities combined, CNN reports.

Addressing the increase in gun arrests this year over past year, (more than 6000 illegal gun recoveries so far in 2016), Mr Johnson acknowledged the intense national scrutiny following last year's release of the Laquan McDonald video.

Dash-cam video footage showing the killing of the black teenager by a white police officer was released to the public in November 2015, sparking a wave of protests in the streets of Chicago. Mr Johnson said the fallout from the horrific video has amplified distrust between police and the community.

"Of course, they're human. They're people," he said. "So of course, nobody wants to be the next viral video. These officers have families to take care of too."

A frame from dash-cam video provided by the Chicago Police Department showing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald moments before being fatally shot by CPD officer Jason Van Dyke. Photo / AP
A frame from dash-cam video provided by the Chicago Police Department showing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald moments before being fatally shot by CPD officer Jason Van Dyke. Photo / AP

The staggering increase in homicides throughout the city has been propelled into the spotlight in recent weeks following the shooting death of Nykea Aldridge, a 32-year-old mother of four who was fatally shot as she pushed her newborn baby in a stroller.

Ms Aldridge, who was a cousin of Chicago Bulls star Dwyane Wade, was struck by stray bullets and not the intended target as she walked near her home on August 26.

Two brothers have been charged in her murder, both men are gang members who were on parole for gun convictions, the police superintendent said.

"The historical cycle of violence we have seen in some communities must come to an end," Mr Johnson said in a statement earlier this month.

Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson. Photo / AP
Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson. Photo / AP

"Repeat gun offenders who drive the violence on our streets should not be there in the first place, and it is time to change the laws to ensure these violent offenders are held accountable for their crimes."

A funeral for Ms Aldridge was held Saturday at a church in Chicago's Washington Park neighbourhood.

NBA player Wade, who has been an outspoken critic of gun violence, took to Twitter to mourn his cousin's death after hearing the devastating news.


- news.com.au

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