On the 5200 block of South Marshfield, Richard Mints was walking to get tools to work on his car as he looked up and down the block behind his home and pointed out the boarded-up homes. "We need to get rid of these abandoned houses, we got too many of them," said Mints, 55. "It's a haven for them (gang members) to hang in. We need to fix them up or tear them down."
The two suspects in the shooting were arrested in a vacant building behind Mints' home Sunday night. Mints said he looked over and spotted a large number of police cars with flashing lights descending on the building.
Mints said he wasn't surprised by the shootings in the park. The great-grandfather said gunfire and gangs have troubled the neighborhood for a long time. "When my grand-kids come, I have to keep them in the house. It's getting ridiculous," he said. "If they get to shooting, what's to keep the bullets from coming through my window and hitting my grandkids?"
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- 1800 West 51st Street, Chicago, IL 60609, USA
- 5200 South Marshfield Avenue, Chicago, IL 60609, USA
'I don't even let my son go to the store'
Frederick Reed, 42, was walking on the sidewalk in front of where the suspects were caught. He was checking on his 62-year-old mother, who lives a block away.
Reed said he grew up in the neighborhood and went to Dunbar High School. But the neighborhood had gotten bad by the time he returned from the U.S. Navy in mid-1990s. "It was a family neighborhood, somewhere to raise kids," he said.
He said many of those children have been drawn to the gangs and put much of the blame on the lack of jobs and activities for teenagers and young adults. "I watched these kids grow up," Reed said. "Nobody has anything to do, just hang out everyday and the crowds bring trouble."
Reed knows violence up close. His sister Stephanie Reed was fatally shot nearby in 2009 by a former boyfriend who is serving a life sentence. And as a parent of a 16-year-old boy, a 15-year-old girl and a 3-year-old girl, he always worries about their safety.
"I don't let them go outside. I keep telling my mother it's time for us to go," he said. "I don't even let my son go to the store. I'm worried every day."
'There are always sirens and gunshots'
Jimmy Ramirez, 23, said growing up in the neighborhood was difficult because gangs were always trying to recruit him. He said his cousin, Juan "Angel" Cazares, was killed in the same park in 2009. Juan was 14 and was fatally shot along with another 14-year-old who survived.
Ramirez said the talk in the neighborhood is that the shooting was spurred by fighting between two gangs. Ramirez said he often spots gang members keeping tabs on him. "They're sneaky, they're watching who I bring over," he said.
Ramirez said he has two small children. When they want to go play in a park, he takes them to one on 35th Street, about two miles away rather than to Cornell Square Park just three blocks away.
"It's an everyday thing, there are always sirens and gunshots," he said.
'I can't even bring my grandchildren outside'
On 51st Street, Salvador and Maria Lopez keep a padlock on the fence in front of their home at all times. The couple raised their family there and say they have had more problems as more buildings become abandoned.
They are especially vigilant when any of their seven grandchildren -- ages 6 to 14 -- are visiting and don't believe police are responsive enough.
Two years ago, they said, a man had his throat slit in a doorway of a building next door. The man stumbled several houses down, leaving a trail of blood on the sidewalk in front of their home. The man collapsed and died at the corner.
"I can't even bring my grandchildren outside," said Maria Lopez. "You have a lot of gunshots, it's normal."