As stuffed animals and balloons outside a south side home mark an innocent life lost and another on the mend, police say recent shootings nearby have made the area feel like the Wild West.
Stacey Jones, 17, wears the stain of the Sunday morning shooting at her home in an unmistakable way, with her right leg in an orthopedic boot and a hospital bracelet still stretched over her right wrist.
"I was scared," said Jones, one of two survivors of the shooting that killed her 6-year-old cousin, Arianna Gibson. The little girl was shot as she slept on a living room couch.
"I thought they were going to come through the house and finish shooting everybody up," Jones recalled.
Released from the hospital Tuesday and getting around on crutches, Jones broke into tears when asked to reflect on her cousin’s short life.
"She’ll always be in my heart," she said.
Police have not made any arrests in connection with this shooting, a fact that petrifies the teen. She still lives in the home on the 7400 block of South Sangamon, in the city's Englewood neighborhood, where the shooting took place.
"I want to tell [the shooter], to just turn themselves in."
A few feet away, Gibson's mother struggled to put a sentence together, as she uncontrollably sobbed throughout a prayer vigil held in memory of her daughter.
"You all got to stop killing these babies," exhorted Demitta Collins. "There’s nothing going to bring my little girl back. So let’s all pray for me."
And pray they did, as a few dozen people turned out to support the family.
"I feel like when that baby was shot down, I lost a child," a somber-toned Rev. Harvey Richardson, of the Kingdom of Christ Baptist Church, told the crowd through a megaphone.
Afterward, the crowd took to the streets for the second time this week in this neighborhood. Chants of "Stop shooting our children" reverberated through the crime-plagued blocks. So too did a cry of "Cease fire! Cease fire!"
But in a matter of 15 minutes the march stopped and residents returned to their homes. Police officers assigned to crowd control sped away to the next call of duty, well aware the call might compel them to respond to another shooting.
And they're common. A little more than a mile away from where Gibson and Jones were shot, two Wild West-like shootouts earlier this week turned several streets into an urban war zone, NBC Chicago has learned.
About 50 shots were fired from automatic weapons near West 79th and South Justine streets on Monday. A day later, 40 shots rang out in a retaliatory shooting near West 80th Street and South Hermitage Avenue.
On opposite sides of Hermitage, shattered windows underscore the scope of the shooting. A lone bullet casing cast a rusty sheen through the grass that's been browned by the summer heat.
All told, the shootings wounded six people. Police made two arrests.
"It’s like Dodge City," said Fraternal Order of Police spokesman Pat Camden, who pointed to the violence in this neighborhood with disgust.
"[Police are] looked at like the occupying army. If we were an occupying army, they would be sending the Rangers and Seals to help catch these offenders who are causing all this mayhem," said Camden.
He stressed that police want to win this war. He noted, however, that manpower shortages in the Chicago Police Department hamstring the force.
"Superintendent [Garry McCarthy] hit it right on the head. The involvement of the community is essential in solving the problem, with more manpower being able to do it. You’ve got one officer on foot patrol here, where there was 40 to 50 shots fired yesterday."
|Englewood resident Violet Holt calls out parents who don't take care of their kids, a community that doesn't start talking and police who inadvertently put people in harm's way.|
|Raw Interview: Stacey Jones, 17, was shot in the foot in the same incident that killed her cousin, 6-year-old Arianna Gibson.|