A man gunned down Thursday on Chicago's West Side marked what police said is the city's 500th homicide of the year. It's a dubious distinction that hasn't occurred since 2008, when the city ended the year with 512 murders.
Chicago surpassed 2011's murder total of 435 in October.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the total "an unfortunate and tragic milestone, which not only marks a needless loss of life but serves as a reminder of the damage that illegal guns and conflicts between gangs cause in our neighborhoods."
"The brave officers of the Chicago Police Department work tirelessly to continually reduce crime, but this is not just a law enforcement issue," Emanuel said in a statement.
Around noon Friday, News Affairs released a statement to clarify that Chicago's murder total remains at 499. A department spokesperson said a death from a few days ago was reclassified as a death investigation.
But by 2:20 p.m., the spokesperson said the department was again going with 500.
Officials released few details about the fatal shooting on the 4900 block of West Augusta that resulted in the milestone.
The fatality, identified by the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office as 40-year-old Nathaniel T. Jackson, was shot around 9 p.m. and pronounced dead at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital at 12:18 a.m.
Tawfik Salman, owner of Noah Foods, said he heard four or five gunshots and dropped to the floor.
"It was pop pop pop pop," Salman said. "We seen a guy laying down in front of the store. I just went to the phone and called police."
According to police, homicides are up 17 percent from last year and shootings up 11 percent..
"It's sad you know. I guess this is part of the violence in Chicago," Salman said. "It's a sad thing that's going on."
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At a peace dinner held Thursday, residents came together to talk about ways to end violence. Ald. Anthony Beale, who is running for Jesse Jackson Jr.'s old 2nd Congressional District seat, said Supt. Garry McCarthy needs to change strategies.
"His philosophy is not working," Beale said. "We need to put resources where the problems are, and then you will see crime drop across the city."
McCarthy called the homicide number "tragic" and said it is "reflective of the gang violence and proliferation of illegal guns that have plagued some of our neighborhoods."
Police said Chicago's 499th homicide victim was a man who died after he was shot at least four times – including in the face and chest – in a Gage Park neighborhood alley Wednesday night on the Southwest Side.