By William Lee
Source Chicago Tribune
CHICAGO—At least nine people were killed and about 50 others wounded during the Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start of the Chicago’s summer events and violence.
Police Superintendent David Brown on Tuesday praised his officers for their work during the weekend where their off days were canceled, as scores of police hit street beats in congested areas to quell violence during the city’s first summer holiday since the lifting of pandemic restrictions.
During the weekend, police seized 250 illegal firearms over the weekend, including 11 from beachgoers at North Avenue Beach on Monday.
Chicago police reported nine homicides and 47 shooting victims through midnight Tuesday. Three more people were shot overnight in two separate incidents, bringing the total to 50, according to a review by the Tribune.
The Tribune counts holiday weekend shooting numbers from 3 p.m. Friday through 6 a.m. the day after a Monday holiday.
The weekend numbers exceed last year’s totals, which saw only three homicides and 34 shootings in a year still under social restrictions. This year’s homicide totals fall behind 2020, which saw 10 homicides and 2015, which saw 12 people killed. This year, Brown said homicides were down by 8%, while shootings were down about 15%.
During one of the weekend’s more violent incidents, four men were shot, one fatally just before 10 p.m. Sunday during a family dispute that led to a shooting in the 4400 block of West Walton Street in the West Humboldt Park neighborhood, according to Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan. One victim, believed to be in his 60s, was pronounced dead at the scene. Authorities haven’t yet released his identity, but said criminal charges against the gunman were pending. The other three victims, all between 25 and 45, survived their injuries.
The superintendent characterized most of the weekend’s violence as personal disputes resolved with guns. “If you don’t have a gun there, it’s just an argument that happens,” Brown said. "With a gun in the mix, it leads to someone shooting and sometimes killing the other person they’re having an argument with.”
City officials at the news conference said the end of the pandemic meant the return of dozens of summertime festivals and events to the city.
While the Memorial Day weekend is generally considered the start of summer-related violence, police and city officials have already had to create crowd strategies as temperatures have warmed up and brought large teenage gatherings downtown and North Side beaches.
Several incidents, including the May 14 shooting death of 16-year-old Seandell Holliday near The Bean led to a City Council approved push by Mayor Lori Lightfoot to implement an earlier curfew on youth under 18.
Police have also recently increased manpower and police resources at area beaches, using undercover officers, surveillance and checks for weapons and alcohol as crowds return to pre-pandemic levels.
On Monday, police made 13 arrests as thousands of people descended on North Avenue Beach and recovered 11 guns in what police called a mostly orderly day. Brown and Chief of Patrol Brian McDermott did describe an incident where officers made mass arrests after a group of teens began throwing glass bottles — and a pineapple — at officers.
No injuries were reported, but the pineapple exploded when it hit an officer’s chest, police said.
“For the most part, there was no large fights that were breaking out. The crowds, besides the one incident where they were throwing objects at the police, were for the most part peaceful,” McDermott told reporters.
The superintendent touted recent strategic moves that include putting additional focus in struggling South and West side communities that has led to decreased homicides and shootings, as well as more recent resources placed on the Chicago Transit Authority to address an uptick in violent crime.
Brown did try to temper expectations, pointing out that police respond to emergencies and not address basic social ills that aid crime. He spoke of the city’s “whole-of-government approach,” which brings city and social services to communities, in addition to a heightened police presence.
“How do we resolve the root cause of violence and if that falls to police, you’re putting too high of a burden for police to resolve poverty and mental health challenges and drug addiction. What the police can do is take guns off the street.”
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