Reporting Derrick Blakley
Updated 12/13/12 – 4:08 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – Chicago’s crackdown on violence at gang funerals took a different turn Thursday, as police took pre-emptive action to remove a potential gang target from a funeral site.
CBS 2′s Derrick Blakley found the police presence for the actual funeral – for a victim of gang violence – was low-key, but watchful.
As mourners arrived at the Smith and Thomas Funeral Home in the Austin neighborhood, officers kept a watchful eye. Police feared the possibility of violence, even though the funeral home sits the right across the street from the Austin District police station.
Austin District Cmdr. Barbara West said there are some criminals so brazen they wouldn’t think twice about trying to shoot someone across the street from a police station.
“Sometimes gang members don’t think about the place, or the sanctity of places. So we have to make sure that we’re out there, and we’re present, and we’re doing everything we can,” she said.
Thursday’s funeral was for Shemara Fitzpatrick, killed Dec. 1t in a gang-related shooting on the west side.
Police believe her boyfriend David Freeman – who was also wounded – was the intended target. Police didn’t want him around for his girlfriend’s funeral, fearing he might be targeted again, or might seek to retaliate against enemies who might show up for the funeral.
“In this situation, it was on both sides that we had information relative to that; that he could have been the intended target again, and also that he could have perpetuated some additional violence trying to retaliate,” West said.
Acting on that information, police and the Illinois Department of Corrections conducted a parolee check on Freeman on Wednesday, and arrested him when they found he was in possession of a gun, in violation of his parole.
The aim was to prevent a repeat what happened almost three weeks ago, when two people were shot – one fatally – outside St. Columbanus Church, during the funeral of another gang member.
Thursday’s police actions were endorsed by Ald. Deborah Graham (29th), who represents part of Austin.
“It’s very important that we provide safety to the families who are going through mourning at this time … to make sure that another senseless murder doesn’t happen when people are trying put their loved ones to rest,” she said.
Graham said police have a duty to provide safety for those genuinely grieving, as well as for neighbors who aren’t attending these funerals.
She said the violence at funerals reflects changes on the streets, with gang hierarchies fractured, and new rivalries constantly developing.