Four dead in shootings as Chicago gun-death toll rises

Reuters

By Renita Young

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A new spate of gun violence in Chicago left four men dead, Chicago police said on Saturday, less than two days after a shooting spree at a park in the city wounded 13 people, including a 3-year-boy.

The latest shootings came as America's third most populous city struggled to respond to a rash of street violence that killed seven people in less than 30 hours and wounded over a dozen more, according to local authorities.

The four gun deaths occurred in incidents between 6:15 p.m. on Friday and 3 a.m. on Saturday, Chicago Police Department spokesman Mike Sullivan said.

The victims ranged in age from 18 to 37. Three of the attacks occurred in the city's mostly poor South Side, where Thursday night's shootings by suspected gang members carrying an assault weapon took place.

Separately, a teenage boy was found shot and killed in the Park Manor neighborhood on Friday afternoon, police said.

The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office also reported two fatalities from gunshots at 2 a.m. Friday and 6 a.m. Friday, although details on those shootings were not available on Saturday.

Chicago has one of the worst homicide rates in the country and more violent crime than other large cities such as New York and Los Angeles. The city's police department had been claiming success in stemming the violence with a strategy of flooding 20 high-crime neighborhoods with officers.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn said on Saturday he would consider using state law enforcement resources to help curb gun violence in Chicago, although he did not outline a specific strategy.

"I think anyone who saw what happened in Cornell Park the other night was horrified by the violence," Quinn said of Thursday's shootings. "I live on the west side of Chicago. It is an area that has been inflicted with violence, and we've got to protect the people."

Quinn added he would be willing to speak with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel or Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy about bringing in state resources. But a spokeswoman told Reuters on Saturday neither city leader had requested that help.

She noted that Illinois State Police already provided help in some violence-prone neighborhoods from Chicago to East St. Louis. She would not comment on whether the governor would support use of the Illinois National Guard as well.

'IT'S SCARY'

Mayor Rahm Emanuel returned home from Washington, after canceling meetings there, and spoke at a prayer vigil on Friday night where he urged witnesses to Thursday's park shooting to come forward.

"We cannot allow children in the city of Chicago and we will not allow children in the city of Chicago to have their youthfulness, their optimism, their hope taken from them," he said at the vigil. "That's what gun violence does."

The 3-year-old who was among those wounded at Cornell Square Park on Thursday in the Back of the Yards neighborhood was identified by his family as Deonta Howard, critically wounded when a bullet entered his ear.

The boy's grandmother, 39-year-old Semecha Nunn, said on Friday he was at the park with his mother.

"I know my grandson wasn't the target, he just was in the wrong place at the wrong time," she said.

"But if you have any type of sympathy or a heart, you'll turn yourself in," she added, in a message to the shooters.

Nunn, whose oldest son was shot to death less than a month ago and whose fiancé also was wounded in the park, said the violence had to stop.

"I just buried my oldest son, and then to come home to this, yeah, it's scary," she said. "I don't feel safe. It's just sad."

Police say three gunmen were involved in Thursday's attack, which took place on a warm night after residents had watched a basketball game. No arrests have been made, police said.

None of those shot on Thursday had life-threatening wounds, McCarthy said.

Homicides in Chicago this year are down 21 percent compared with last year - at 305 compared with 389, according to the Chicago Police Department.

(Writing by Noreen O'Donnell; Editing by Karen Brooks and Peter Cooney)

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