Holder: Chicago School Shooting Numbers “Unacceptable”

Shootings spiked, 500 schoolchildren shot last year

Jamone White is a Chicago Police Department statistic.  The 22-year old South Side resident was shot May 22.

“A gentleman creeped up on the side of my truck and stuck a gun in and put it upside my head,” he said, “but God was with me some way.”

Five shots were fired, and one struck White in his side.  “I couldn’t feel nothing from the waist down,” he said from his wheelchair as he prepared to undergo grueling physical therapy at Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital.

While police say homicides are down in Chicago this year, the number of shootings is up.  In fact, over the past 4½ years, there has been a marked increase in the number of shootings, according to Chicago Police Department statistics. Still, there are experts who believe the number of shootings remains undercounted.

“There’s an estimate that there is anywhere from seven to 11 non-fatal gunshot wounds for every gunshot wound that’s fatal,” Dr. Michelle Gittler told us. She has been treating gunshot victims for more than 15 years at Schwab on Chicago’s west side.

And though she says there has been an ebb and flow of gun violence over the years, she now believes it is more dangerous and far more unpredictable on the streets of Chicago. “It’s like little Iraqs. It’s like these are little terrorists,” Gittler said.

In 2005, according to the Chicago Police Department, there were 1,705 cases of aggravated battery with a gun, the vast majority being shootings.

By 2008, the number shot up to 2003, a 17.5 percent jump.

In the first 6 months of 2009, there has been a 6.3 percent increase over last year.

Adam Martinez, an 18-year old worker for the anti-violence group Ceasefire, thinks it may be even worse.

“When people get killed, that’s when it’s reported, but when people get shot or when there are shootings, it’s not really reported,” he said.

Tenth District Commander Berscott Ruiz firmly believes Chicago Police do have an accurate counting of gunshot victims but acknowledges, “There might be somebody shot that does not want it reported.”

“I don’t think anybody could look you in the eye and say we know we have had this many gunshot wounds this year versus X number 3 or 4 years ago,” Gittler said.

On the West Side, she believes a federal raid last September of Latin Kings street gang leaders took some bad guys off the street but left a void in leadership and an uptick in violence.

Police discount that theory, but Jose Torres, who's also with Ceasefire, believes it's a reality.

“Whether it be bad leadership or good leadership, the leadership is gone, so the little gang members are walking around, 13-year-olds, are now carrying guns,” he said. “They are the ones doing the shootings.”

This summer’s gun violence in Chicago has prompted concern in Washington. Appearing before Congress last month, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin put it into perspective.

“This last school year, recently completed, over 500 schoolchildren in Chicago were shot, at least 36 of them fatally,” Durbin said.

“The numbers coming out of Chicago,” said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, “are simply unacceptable.”

Jamone White says he doesn’t know who shot him. What he does know is that the journey to recovery will be long. “It will take about a year to completely walk on my own again, 'cause the nerves on my right side are completely damaged,” he said.  “Bullets ain’t got no names, so anybody can get hit.”

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