Updated 09/20/13 – 2:10 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – Thirteen people, including a 3-year-old boy, were shot at an outdoor basketball court in the Back of the Yards neighborhood overnight.
Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said it was “a miracle” none of the victims were killed.
CBS 2’s Courtney Gousman reports the victims were taken to six different hospitals after they were shot around 10:15 p.m. at Cornell Square Park, near 51st and Wood streets. Dozens of police officers swarmed the park after the shooting.
Three-year-old Deonta Howard Jr. was with his mother at the park when a bullet struck him in the face. He was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital in critical condition, but was expected to survive.
“He’s doing fine. He’s healthy, he’s breathing on his own. It’s nothing wrong with him. The bullet didn’t hit his brain. It just hit his cheek,” his aunt Kailynn Jordan said.
Deonta will need to have plastic surgery to repair damage from the bullet. Authorities said the bullet struck him by his ear, then went through his cheek.
Relatives said Deonta and his mother were at the park, watching a basketball game, after Deonta awoke from a nap.
“When my nephew first woke up, his momma put on his clothes, took him to the park so he could tire himself out again, and he was playing basketball on the court. We just know, all that happened … there was shooting,” Jordan said.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel visited Deonta at the hospital Friday afternoon, after flying back from Washington, D.C., but did not speak to reporters outside the hospital.
Earlier, Emanuel released a written statement on the shooting:
“Senseless and brazen acts of violence have no place in Chicago and betray all that we stand for. The perpetrators of this crime will be brought to justice and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I encourage everyone in the community to step forward with any information and everyone in Chicago to continue their individual efforts to build stronger communities where violence has no place.”
President Barack Obama also weighed in on the shooting, through a White House spokeswoman.
“The President was dismayed to learn of yet another deplorable act of gun violence, this time in his hometown of Chicago. He sends his thoughts and prayers to the several victims who were shot last night and hopes for their speedy recovery. The President remains committed to pushing Congress to pass commonsense measures and is doing everything in his executive power to reduce gun violence,” Joanna Rosholm said.
As of late Friday morning, no one was in custody for the shooting. Although witnesses said there were two shooters involved, McCarthy said detectives have not confirmed how many gunmen opened fire. He said there could have been anywhere from one to three people who fired shots.
McCarthy said police were talking to several witnesses to try to piece together exactly what happened. Ballistic evidence and other information gathered at the scene indicate an assault-style rifle with a high-capacity magazine was used in the shooting, he said.
“It’s a miracle in this instance that there have been no fatalities, based on the lethality of the weapon used at this scene,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy also said the shooting appears to be gang-related, and several of the victims are purported gang members.
“However, that by no means justifies or lessens the seriousness, or the nature of this particular event,” he said.
Detectives were hoping security cameras at the park would help them identify and track down the shooters; they also were asking for community residents to come forward with any information that might help solve the case.
The FBI was assisting Chicago police in the investigation.
Rev. Corey Brooks, pastor of New Beginnings Church in Woodlawn, said Deonta’s grandmother’s fiancé also was wounded in the shooting. Brooks also said Deonta’s uncle, 21-year-old Jerome Wood, was fatally shot on Labor Day in the 6600 block of South Rhodes Avenue.
Brooks said he went to the scene of Thursday night’s shooting to provide comfort to the victims’ families. He said Chicagoans need to come together to fight gun violence and prevent anything like this from happening again.
“A lot of people in the city of Chicago have been desensitized towards the violence, and because of that, we’re really lax as far as it relates to trying to do something about it,” he said. “I think, if all of us collectively would wake up and become more aware and alert about what’s going on, I definitely believe we could fix this situation.”
Deonta’s grandmother, Tracy Gautreaux, asked others to pray for an end to the violence, because “too many kids (are) getting hurt out here.”
“A 3-year-old getting hurt out there, you know, it’s serious. People need to pay attention to what’s going on in their community, and make sure that the kids’ safe. You’re going to run up into a park, what’s supposed to be a safe place for them to play at, and then a 3-year-old gets shot? That’s not cool,” she added.
At least two other victims were teenagers. In addition to Deonta, three other victims were taken to Mount Sinai, all of them in serious condition.
Two victims were taken to Holy Cross Hospital, one was taken to St. Anthony Hospital, three were taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, two were taken to John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County, and one was taken to Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park.
CBS 2’s Marissa Bailey talked to one victim, who was shot in the thigh.
The man, who asked to remain anonymous, said he never saw the gunmen, he only heard the shots.
“I heard a lot of gunshots, ran, got hit in the leg,” he said. “Turned around, saw bodies laying out on the basketball court.”
He also said he saw Deonta after the boy had been shot.
“His face was like somebody just tore it, ripped it,” he said.
None of the victims’ injuries were considered life-threatening.
McCarthy said the shooting highlights the need for a ban on assault-style firearms, and background checks on all gun sales.
“We need to keep illegal guns, and military-type weapons out of our communities,” he said. “Illegal guns … illegal guns … illegal guns drive violence; and military-type weapons like the one we believe to have been used in this shooting belong on a battlefield, not on a street, or on a corner, or in a park in the Back of the Yards.”
WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports one witness said two men in a gray car shot at him at the corner of 51st and Wood, then pulled up to the basketball court, got out, and began spraying bullets into the crowd. Other witnesses said they saw two people wearing masks run up to the crowd on the basketball court at Cornell Square Park, and start shooting. The crowd scattered, fleeing for cover.
Neighborhood kids were among those who heard the shots ring out.
“I heard like eight, or six,” Marco Licone said. “My dad said ‘Get under the table,’ and he turned out the lights. I was scared at first.”
Marco said there have been shootings in the neighborhood before, “but not this kind of thing.”
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) said the shooting “is yet another reminder that we must work together to eradicate these gangs that are a cancer on our communities.”
Earlier this year, he called for federal authorities to arrest up to 18,000 members of the Gangster Disciples street gang. But Kirk’s proposal drew a sharp rebuke from Congressman Bobby Rush, who called the plan an “upper-middle-class, elitist white boy solution to a problem he knows nothing about.”
Rush and Kirk later patched up their differences, and Rush took Kirk on a tour of the Englewood neighborhood for a first-hand look at the community’s problems with poverty and crime.
“Several weeks ago I spoke face-to-face with Englewood families. They told about the grief they experience their everyday suffering at the hands of these drug fueled gangsters. Gangs are fueled by the money and power gained by engaging in criminal activity. Homicide, shootings, weapons offenses, human trafficking, drug trafficking and rape are just a few of the crimes associated with gangs,” Kirk said.
In the wake of the shooting in Back of the Yards, Community activist Andrew Holmes was handing out flyers with phone numbers to call if residents have information.
“Thirteen people? That’s unacceptable, and someone has to be held accountable for it, and the community needs to step up, and I believe they are going to step up,” he said. “I truly believe this person is going to be in custody soon.”
Anyone with information should call Central Area Detectives at 312-747-8380, or you can call an anonymous tip line at 1-800-U-TELL-US (883-5587)