By Adam Sege, Rosemary Regina Sobol, Jeremy Gorner and Michelle Manchir
12:50 PM CDT, June 3, 2014
Police call it Terror Town, a 2-block by 4-block patch of South Shore where apparent gang conflicts have erupted into three mass shootings in a little over two years.
The latest occurred Monday evening when a gunman walked up to a strip mall on East 79th Street and fired into a crowd, wounding six people, including two boys ages 14 and 16. All are expected to survive.
Police have made no arrests but they are looking into whether the boys, the youngest victims of the shooting, may have been the targets. They are believed to be members of a Gangster Disciples faction that has been feuding with a faction of the Black P Stones. Police consider their rivalry among the most violent in the city.
There have been two other mass shootings in that area since February of 2012, and gangs are believed to have been at the heart of both.
On Feb. 19, 2012, a gunman fired into a crowd standing in front of a liquor store at 79th Street and Essex Avenue -- about two blocks from Monday's shooting -- killing two people and wounding five others. Six months later, eight people were wounded in a shooting near the same corner.
Terror Town lies in the South Chicago police district. According to department statistics, the district had 59 shootings through May of this year compared to 37 during the first five months of 2013, an increase of 59 percent.
"I think I'm habituated to it all," said Tamara Moore. "I'm desensitized."
The 31-year-old law student moved out of the city three years ago but returned Monday with a car of dirty clothes for an outing to the laundromat in the strip mall with her younger brother. They had been running late or they would have arrived around the time of the shooting.
"It's not even rage anymore," she said as police rolled out crime scene tape. "It's sadness."
The shooting happened about 8:05 p.m. in the 2600 block of East 79th Street, authorities said. Surveillance video shows the shooter walking up and firing a handgun into a crowd of people, shattering the glass window of a coin laundry, police said.
The 14-year-old boy was hit in the leg and taken to Comer Children's Hospital, authorities said. A 16-year-old boy was also shot in the leg and was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.
Three men, ages 41, 42 and 52, suffered wounds to the elbow, arm and leg. A 27-year-old woman was shot in the leg. A 25-year-old woman injured her toe while running away, police said.
The injured adults were treated at South Shore Hospital, Jackson Park Hospital, Northwestern Memorial Hospital and John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County. Four of the injured, including both boys, were transported in serious-to-critical condition. Three were in fair-to-serious condition. Police said later that the conditions of all seven were stabilized.
Police remained outside the laundromat for several hours, blocking 79th Street with yellow tape and directing neighborhood residents around the crime scene.
For Tamesha Ginn, a lifelong South Shore resident who heard the gunfire from her porch, the shooting reflected changes her neighborhood has gone through in the years since her childhood.
"I just wish it could go back to how the neighborhood used to be," said Ginn, a 32-year-old property manager. "It wasn't like this."
The neighborhood wasn't completely free from violence when she grew up, but parents let their children walk to the corner store and jump double dutch without fear they would be caught in crossfire, Ginn said.
"Our kids can't do that," she said. "We can't even go to the laundromat. It's heartbreaking to see things like this."
As Ginn stood near the crime scene with her cousin, Moore, neighbor Alisha Morris walked by. As the three discussed the shooting, Morris, a 27-year-old who had graduated from nursing school a day earlier, said violence had reached the point where she would welcome the National Guard.
Moore disagreed but she said policing strategies weren't working. "We need a whole lot more than foot patrols," she said.
Police sources said the area of Monday's shooting occurred in one of the city’s top 12 gang conflict zones designated by the department. When these zones are identified, the department sends additional resources into those areas to combat gang violence and other illegal activity.
At a press conference Tuesday morning at Chicago police headquarters, Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said Monday's shooting "fits that pattern that we’re accustomed to seeing” in gang violence, though he cautioned that police are still investigating.
“Many times these things are tied around gang turfs and people being from rival gang factions,” McCarthy told reporters. “We’ve seen it time and time again, so that’s what we’re looking at right now. But we’re not positive. For all we know this could be a fight over a girl.”
While police have surveillance video from area businesses and what McCarthy called a “sterile” description of a shooter, no arrests have been made.
When asked about the many gang conflicts in the police district and how his department will respond, McCarthy said police will do “the same things that we’ve been doing.”
“There’s no magic formula here. It’s hard work and it’s intelligence-based, getting in between these conflicts and preventing the next shooting,” he said.
McCarthy said a police audit of gangs identified 59 in the city with more than 650 factions on the South, West and North sides.
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