DOZENS MORE SHOT OVER HOL­I­DAY WEEK­END

2 kids among 14 killed, 76 shot over long week­end; per­son of in­ter­est ques­tioned in death of girl, 7

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVID STRUETT AND BEN POPE Con­tribut­ing: Sam Kelly, Luke Wilusz, Sun-Times Wire Staff Re­porters

Chicago was left reel­ing over the Fourth of July week­end as city­wide gun vi­o­lence left mul­ti­ple chil­dren killed for the third week­end in a row.

As of late Sun­day evening, 76 peo­ple had been shot, 14 of them fa­tally, in­clud­ing two chil­dren shot dead Satur­day night. Eight other gun­shot vic­tims were mi­nors.

Ten chil­dren un­der 18 have died in Chicago gun vi­o­lence since June 20, ac­cord­ing to Chicago Sun-Times records.

The week­end is al­ready more deadly than In­de­pen­dence Day week­end in 2019, when five were killed and 65 oth­ers wounded. In 2018, 14 peo­ple were killed and 87 wounded city­wide in hol­i­day week­end shoot­ings.

Mayor Lori Light­foot pre­pared for the his­tor­i­cally vi­o­lent week­end by de­ploy­ing an ex­tra 1,500 Chicago po­lice of­fi­cers — some­thing the city did in 2019 — but the gun vi­o­lence con­tin­ued un­abated.

Two more chil­dren killed

On Satur­day night, 7-year-old Natalia Wal­lace died af­ter be­ing shot while vis­it­ing her grand­mother at a party in Austin.

She was out­side where kids were rid­ing on bi­cy­cles when three gun­men stepped out of a car and let off more than 20 shots in the 100 block of North La­trobe Av­enue, Chicago po­lice said.

Natalia died at the scene, from a gun­shot to her head, of­fi­cials said. Po­lice were re­view­ing video from the scene and took a per­son of in­ter­est in for ques­tion­ing.

Natalia was about to en­ter the 2nd grade at Crown Com­mu­nity Academy of Fine Arts in Lit­tle Vil­lage, ac­cord­ing to a school of­fi­cial.

“She was a re­ally good kid — an an­gel,” said the of­fi­cial, who asked not to be named. “She had a lot of fam­ily at the school. Ev­ery­one in her class would’ve said she was their friend.”

Nathan Wal­lace, the girl’s fa­ther, said at a news con­fer­ence Sun­day he’d hugged her goodbye just 10 min­utes be­fore the shoot­ing oc­curred.

“I just wanted her to have a chance at life,” Wal­lace said. “What­ever she wanted to do, I was go­ing to be there no mat­ter what. To see my daugh­ter on the ta­ble with a gun­shot wound to the fore­head, that’ll change some­body’s life.”

He said he’d heard about other chil­dren be­ing shot in re­cent weeks but didn’t think about it un­til it was his own daugh­ter killed. He called for oth­ers in the com­mu­nity to take a more ac­tive, per­sonal role in con­fronting the gun vi­o­lence cri­sis.

“We need help find­ing her killers,” he said. “Kids can’t be out here play­ing with­out wor­ry­ing about peo­ple shoot­ing. It hurts me that my youngest daugh­ter is no longer here, that I will not be able to talk to her, hold her, tell her bed­time sto­ries, any­thing.”

Also Satur­day night, 14-year-old Ver­nado Jones Jr. died af­ter be­ing among eight peo­ple shot, three oth­ers fa­tally, in En­gle­wood on the South Side, of­fi­cials said.

Four gun­men walked up to a large gath­er­ing in the 6100 block of South Car­pen­ter Street and opened fire, po­lice said. Jones, of West Lawn, died at Comer Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal, ac­cord­ing to the med­i­cal ex­am­iner’s of­fice.

The shoot­ing also wounded two boys, 11 and 15 years old, po­lice said.

Ac­tivists de­mand ‘law and or­der’

Com­mu­nity ac­tivist An­drew Holmes an­nounced Sun­day a $2,000 re­ward for in­for­ma­tion lead­ing to an ar­rest and con­vic­tion in the case of Natalia Wal­lace.

Also Sun­day, sev­eral com­mu­nity ac­tivists de­manded fed­eral fund­ing to help with the “out of con­trol” gun vi­o­lence, while also ac­cus­ing the mayor of turn­ing her back on po­lice.

In a news con­fer­ence in Lit­tle Vil­lage, Raul Montes Jr. called the week­end gun vi­o­lence a “car­bon copy” of the last few weeks and blamed Light­foot for al­low­ing protests to de­volve into loot­ing while “giv­ing a nod to An­tifa,” a far-left anti-fas­cist group.

An­other ac­tivist, Jac­que­line Baez of Bel­mont Cra­gin, said res­i­dents are scared to go out­side and called for in­creased po­lice fund­ing.

“Here we are again, an­other bloody week­end in Chicago. Our in­no­cent chil­dren are dy­ing,” Baez said.

Baez dis­missed the calls of other ac­tivists to de­fund po­lice de­part­ments, a re­frain of na­tion­wide protests since the po­lice killing of Ge­orge Floyd in Min­neapo­lis.

“De­fund­ing po­lice is the stu­pid­est thing to say,” Baez said. “We need po­lice. We need to feel safe in our com­mu­ni­ties . . . I don’t feel safe let­ting my kids play out­side.”

‘When you shoot chil­dren, we’ve lost it all’

An­other ac­tivist, Frank Co­conate, while ac­knowl­edg­ing the ex­tra of­fi­cers over the hol­i­day week­end, said it’s not just about hav­ing more po­lice.

“It’s about co­op­er­a­tion; we need to build a bridge be­tween com­mu­nity and po­lice,” Co­conate said.

“Peo­ple in Pilsen and Lit­tle Vil­lage, there’s no bond with po­lice. There’s a fear of talk­ing with them, and that’s a huge prob­lem. Here they’re scared. It’s good to have those [ex­tra cops], but let’s have those cops walk the streets and talk with peo­ple . . . There should be more in­vested in hav­ing Chicago po­lice work­ing with the com­mu­nity.”

Co­conate said it’s up to the mayor — and for cit­i­zens to lay on the pres­sure — to stop the vi­o­lence.

“When you shoot chil­dren, we’ve lost it all. And the mayor holds the bag now . ... That poor lit­tle girl play­ing on a hol­i­day week­end dies. That shouldn’t be hap­pen­ing. We are, as cit­i­zens, are to blame. We’re not work­ing hard enough.”

Three week­ends of gun vi­o­lence

The last three week­ends in Chicago have been es­pe­cially deadly for chil­dren.

Last week, 1-year-old Sin­cere A. Gas­ton was killed when some­one opened fire on his mother’s car as they drove home from a laun­dro­mat in En­gle­wood. Lina Nunez, 10, was killed in Lo­gan Square when a bul­let came through her win­dow and struck her.

Over Fa­ther’s Day week­end, Mekhi James, 3 years old, was fa­tally shot while rid­ing in an SUV with his fa­ther in Austin when some­one opened fire on them from an­other ve­hi­cle. Amaria Jones, 13, died af­ter she was struck by a stray bul­let in a shoot­ing that also wounded two boys on the West Side. They were among 104 peo­ple shot that week­end, 15 of them fa­tally.

TYLER LARIVIERE/SUN-TIMES

Chicago po­lice in­ves­ti­gate af­ter 7-year-old Natalia Wal­lace (in­set) was shot to death Satur­day night while at­tend­ing a Fourth of July party at her grand­mother’s home in the 100 block of North La­trobe Av­enue in Austin.

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