2 Shot, 1 Fatally, Along CPS Safe Passage Route

Two people were shot, one of them fatally, in an attack along one of the Chicago Public Schools safe passage routes Saturday, police said.

The shooting took place around 6:45 p.m. near 29th and State Streets when a gunman opened fire on two people along the street.

Police said a 54-year-old man and a 25-year-old man were critically injured in the shooting and taken to John H. Stroger Hospital.

The 25-year-old man suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the arm and a graze wound to the stomach and remained in the hospital Sunday morning.

Ralph McNeal, 54, was later pronounced dead at Stroger Hospital, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's office.

"He was just a fun person," said McNeal's sister Meredetise Wilson. "That person took something away from us. When it hits home it's sad, it's just so sad."

The incident happened just one day after CPS officials released a map of the safe passage routes thousands of students will take when school starts in a couple weeks.

According to Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office, the routes were chosen through months of input from community members, teachers, principals, students, parents and police.

The city says 600 newly hired safety workers in yellow vests will be positioned along the routes around closing schools and welcoming schools at arrival and dismissal times.

Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said community policing officers have signed up nearly 1,800 volunteers to help be the eyes and ears along routes as well.

Chicago Police released a statement after the shooting that read in part:

"Ensuring the safety of our children is everyone's top priority. Kids have been walking through challenging areas for years and through the Safe Passage program, in partnership with the community, we will continue to help kids focus on their studies instead of their safety."

Safety remains a concern for parents who say they don't know who these Safe Passage workers will be or how they will protect thousands of students walking through dangerous neighborhoods to get to their new schools.

"Whoever said it's a safe passage evidently don't live in the area," said McNeal's niece Ronnissa Laster. "More countless accounts can happen to these kids too. Who's to say it's not going to happen two weeks from now when these kids go back to school?"

According to the mayor's office, Safe Passage work has been ongoing, including demolishing 14 buildings and cleaning up more than 200 vacant lots and thousands of graffiti markings, but all city departments will be involved including police and community volunteers.

Hundreds of new workers will begin their training next week to be ready for Aug 26 th the first day of school.

Some area residents say the shooting was an isolated incident and that the area is safe for children.

"It's safe," said Maria Pendleton whose lived near 29th and State Streets for 22 years. "It used to not be, but now they have remodeled it, they have security everywhere so children are pretty safe."

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