By Don Babwin, AP
CHICAGO–Extra police officers on Chicago’s streets were not enough to quell a long weekend of violence that ended with 14 people shot to death and dozens more injured.
During a Monday news conference, just hours after two more people were shot to death earlier in the day, Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said his department’s best efforts could not prevent the bloodshed that spiked dramatically on Sunday. Chicago’s total of 53 shooting incidents for the holiday weekend easily eclipsed Detroit and New York combined, which had a total of 46 shooting incidents, 10 of which were fatal.
“Going into the holiday weekend we had a plan, including putting hundreds more officers on the streets and what were the results?” McCarthy asked. “The results were a lot of shootings, a lot of murders, unfortunately.”
The shootings over the Fourth of July holiday weekend included eight incidents that involved police, according to McCarthy. In five of those instances, officers shot at suspects. Two people — both 16 — were killed in those shootouts. McCarthy said that based on preliminary investigations, all of the officer-involved shootings appear to have been justified, including one in which officers fired after a suspect tried to run them over with his car.
Even with the weekend shootings, Chicago police are on pace with last year for officer-involved shootings, with 33 so far in 2014, compared with 35 at the same time last year, according to McCarthy.
The Associated Press took its tally of shooting deaths for the holiday weekend from the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office, from Thursday through Sunday. The number of shooting incidents came from Chicago police and was for Thursday evening through Sunday. The two deaths early Monday morning were not included in the weekend totals.
McCarthy, who came to the third-largest U.S. city from New York, used the opportunity to again highlight the number of guns that are on Chicago’s streets. While Chicago has tough gun sales and possession ordinances, McCarthy maintains that Illinois needs stiffer penalties for people who violate gun laws.
McCarthy said his officers are seeing more suspects who are reluctant to throw down their guns when confronted by police because they’re more concerned with harsh treatment from their gangs if they lose their weapons than the legal system if they are arrested with them.
“Possession of a loaded firearm is not even considered a violent felony in the state of Illinois for sentencing purposes,” McCarthy said, noting that gangs, on the other hand, may severely beat a member who loses a gun.
The latest spate of shootings also indicates how dangerous the streets can be, particularly in the summer when the warm weather puts more people on the streets. McCarthy noted that nearly half of the 53 shooting incidents over the holiday weekend happened on Sunday, when temperatures climbed into the upper 80s Fahrenheit (low 30s Celsius).
Still, the superintendent stressed that even with the weekend deaths, Chicago has had fewer homicides as of July 6 (185) than it did for the same period last year (196). At the same time, he said, the city has had 46 more shooting incidents than last year.