CHICAGO (CBS) — For many, a loved one’s funeral or wake is a somber time; but in some Chicago neighborhoods, the mourning happens under the threat of gang violence.
CBS 2’s Jim Williams reports that some community leaders are calling for state lawmakers to crack down on this.
While June Williams has offered comfort to the grieving at her funeral home for decades, it still didn’t prepare for her some of the things she would witness.
“A gentleman went up to see his brother, who had been killed, and I’m standing at the casket, so of course, I’m thinking, ‘how touching — he’s grieving over his brother.’ And another walked up, put his arm around him and he stabbed him,” Williams said.
Increasingly in Chicago, violence, often gang retaliations, plague even sacred moments such as these.
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“I have experienced going to funeral homes and churches where weapons are laid up under the seats,” crisis responder Andrew Holmes said.
These community leaders want tough legislation for those who commit violence at funerals, similar to safe school zone laws.
And Bishop Travis Grant thinks this sort of legislation will register with some of those brazen gang members.
“They know what gets you picked up, they know what gets you pulled over, they know what gets you held at 26th and California,” he said.
In today’s current state, funeral directors have to avoid wearing certain colors and to look for the safest routes to cemeteries.
“I’ve been a licensed funeral director 33 years,” Williams said. “So I’ve seen the changes in the industry, but this, I have to be scared for my own life now.”
Some funeral directors have not only hired security, but also assigned police officers to stand outside funeral homes or churches if there is a potential for violence.
State Senator Napoleon Harris is reportedly willing to sponsor the anti-violence legislation, the exact language of which is currently being worked on.
Funeral directors told CBS that gang members show up at services for those they’ve killed to score points with their leaders.