CHICAGO — The revelry of fireworks and parades offered little comfort in some parts of America’s third largest city.
Chicago again — as in recent years — celebrated a bloody Fourth of July weekend, with at least six homicides and nearly 40 shootings, according to police. Those numbers don’t include the Tuesday holiday, when more revelers pour onto the humid streets.
“Quite naturally, I’d like to see zero murders and zero shootings,” Police Supt. Eddie Johnson told reporters on Tuesday.
“Certainly we can’t celebrate what we’ve seen but people are out there working hard.”
Gun deaths take no holiday on Independence Day in Chicago.
‘It could always be better’
Over the 2016 holiday weekend, four people were killed and 46 were injured in 42 shootings and a stabbing, according to police. Seven were killed and 40 wounded over the 2015 July Fourth weekend.
“Listen, it could always be better but I can assure that CPD is doing everything we can to make sure the remainder of the holiday weekend goes well,” said Johnson as he announced 58 arrests one day earlier in a bid to stem the often gang-related bloodshed in the predominantly minority West and South sides.
The bloodshed comes days after the police department and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced a new task force aimed at decreasing the spread of illegal guns throughout the Windy City.
The task force includes an additional 20 ATF agents, who arrived June 1, according to a city official, as well as 12 Chicago police officers, two Illinois state troopers, six intelligence analysts and state and federal prosecutors.
Violent crime drops 14% in 2017, police say
President Donald Trump immediately took to Twitter on Friday to tout federal involvement even though the police department’s first deputy superintendent, Kevin Navarro, said discussions about ATF assistance commenced in November during the previous administration.
Trump had threatened to send in help early in his administration after months of campaigning against crime in Chicago and other major cities.
“If Chicago doesn’t fix the horrible ‘carnage’ going on … I will send in the Feds,” he tweeted four days after his inauguration.
His administration has been criticized for describing Chicago as an uncontrolled “war zone” despite not laying out a long-term vision for America’s cities.
Chicago police have said crime has decreased from 2016, when there were 4,331 shooting victims and 762 homicides.
There has been a 14% drop in violent crime overall in the city compared to last year, with the two most violent districts seeing a 33% drop in violent crime, and fewer people have been shot this year, according to police.
On Friday, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders drew the wrath of some Chicagoans when she said crime in the city is “driven by morality more than anything else.” She was responding to a question about whether easy access to guns contributed to the high murder rate.
The Rev. Michael Pfleger, the activist pastor of Chicago’s Faith Community of St. Sabina, responded to the claim on Facebook:
“ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? It’s one thing to send out bizarre dysfunctional Tweets, but when the White House which has never taken the time to come and talk to folks in the community about the violence now MAKES A (JUDGMENT) STATEMENT ABOUT THE CHARACTER AND MORALITY OF PEOPLE IN CHICAGO you have crossed the damn line.”
‘Life isn’t a video game’
One victim of holiday weekend violence was Duriel Lyke, 28, the son of a Cook County judge, CNN affiliate WLS-TV reported.
Lyke was in the Chatham neighborhood late Saturday after a funeral when a drive-by shooter targeting another person opened fire, the station reported. Lyke is recovering from head and leg wounds.
“This city is under siege with the violence and what I want these young men, young ladies to know that are out here with the guns is that life isn’t a video game,” his father, Judge John Lyke, a former prosecutor and defense attorney, told the station.
“You can’t hit reset. Not only to the victims of violence but to the perpetrators’ families as well. They didn’t choose to have this perpetrator pull that trigger, but they, too, will suffer if that perpetrator is caught and sentenced to prison.”