Fireworks, heat and violence: First Fourth of July weekend without restrictions since the pandemic began

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Chicagoans celebrating their first relatively normal Fourth of July in two years were met with the usual markers of a long holiday weekend in the summer: scorching heat, fireworks, crowds of people downtown and along the lakefront, and bouts of mayhem, including at least 108 people shot.

Among those shot over the long weekend were two police officers, a 6-year-old girl and her mother, and a group of six people. First responders in the city and suburbs were busy with fires and injuries resulting from illegal fireworks, as well as water rescues and boating crashes as sun-seekers flocked to Lake Michigan, where $30 flat-rate parking angered some. And hundreds of young people and Chicago police officers flooded the Loop Sunday, sometimes clashing while fireworks exploded and dumpster contents went up in flames.

President Joe Biden previously set Independence Day as a key turning point in the country’s vaccination campaign, with the goal of giving at least one shot to 70% of Americans. Nationwide, the country has fallen short, but Illinois has largely reached the goal, which paved the way for a local holiday celebration without the social distancing guidelines that have diminished holidays in the past year.

Still, alarming gun violence levels in Chicago marred the otherwise triumphal return to normal, with at least 17 people killed in shootings between late Friday afternoon and early Tuesday, along with two people who were fatally stabbed.

A mass shooting in the Washington Park neighborhood left two men dead. A 67-year-old man was killed when he was stabbed Friday afternoon on a CTA bus. Among those killed was a 45-year-old woman whose alleged killer was immediately shot by a man with a concealed handgun and a 19-year-old National Guard member.

Chrys Carvajal, of Portage Park, was identified by his family as the Guardsman who was shot in the back and abdomen around 1:30 a.m. Saturday in the Belmont Cragin community.

At a news conference Sunday, Carvajal’s sister Jennifer Ramirez said he was home on leave from basic training for less than a month before he was killed leaving a house party.

“He was fighting for our country,” Ramirez said at the news conference. “He comes to Chicago, and he gets killed in the streets.”

Among those injured in shootings were at least four children younger than 14, including the 6-year-old girl who was wounded along with her mother in a drive-by shooting in West Pullman early Monday. That happened hours after a 5-year-old girl was wounded in the same neighborhood Sunday afternoon. A fifth child, an 11-year-old, suffered a critical injury to the chest while at the scene of a shooting Sunday evening on the South Side, but it was not clear whether that was due to a gunshot wound or some other injury.

“As we’ve seen too many times, tragically, someone else is being targeted and the unintended target, an innocent child, is struck,” Chicago police Superintendent David Brown told reporters Monday.

Six teenagers were shot in the span of about 8 hours Monday afternoon into Tuesday.

Two police officers were shot and wounded early Monday while dispersing a crowd in the South Austin neighborhood. Both are expected to recover, police said.

Fireworks contributed to the weekend mayhem, as the Chicago Fire Department reported responding to at least 30 building fires, 27 garage fires and 293 rubbish fires Sunday night through Monday morning.

“Many of these responses can reasonably be considered to be the result of fireworks activity,” fire officials said on social media.

In south suburban Frankfort, residents of at least two homes were displaced after a blaze erupted Sunday morning due to improperly discarded fireworks, officials there said. The fireworks were thrown out in a garbage can, which caught fire and spread to two houses.

In Waukegan, a man in his 20s was seriously injured in a fireworks explosion Saturday night. He suffered facial injuries after a firework was discharged from a “makeshift or prepackaged tube,” Waukegan authorities said.

On the water, 11 people were rescued from a sinking boat near the 5900 block of South Lake Shore Drive on Saturday morning, police said. Authorities were also investigating after a man was killed on Sunday in a Jet Ski collision near 31st Street Harbor.

Chicago police also arrested 57 people in connection with skirmishes in and around the Loop Sunday night, 50 of whom were juveniles. Crowds of mostly young people reveled downtown. Police at one point tried to move the crowds west, away from Millennium Park. Some people danced, stood on police cars and set off fireworks as Chicago firefighters rushed around, putting out at least two dumpster fires.

For about a decade, Chicago police have periodically dealt with large crowds of teens who gather in the downtown area to spend time along the lakefront or in spots such as Water Tower Place or Millennium Park when the weather starts to warm up.

Police officials implemented strategies under previous department administrations to address the incidents, which often are coordinated via text messages or social networking websites, in downtown and nearby neighborhoods. Police said the youths in many cases come downtown from the South and West sides using mass transit.

But some of the police tactics, which have involved shuttling teens onto trains leaving downtown, have raised red flags for advocates and police watchdogs because the strategies appear to target Black teenagers.

Chicago Tribune’s Katherine Rosenberg-Douglas, Maya Mokh and Zachary Harris contributed.