The kind of violence that typically plagues Chicago does not handily fit the terms of the national debate on assault weapons and mass shootings.
While tragedies in Newtown, Conn., Aurora, Colo., and other cities have made the nation stop and take notice, the nearly daily killings in Chicago more often make headlines only by the periodic tallying of their collective toll. Most often, the approximately 500 people slain last year in Chicago were shot one at a time, usually with a handgun that could be concealed in a waistband or jacket pocket.
The gun violence that unfolded Thursday night at Cornell Square Park in the Back of the Yards neighborhood was different.
In all, 13 people were wounded, and the scene around the bloodied basketball court was littered with 7.62x39 shell casings, rounds consistent with witnesses' descriptions of a gunman wielding an AK-47 assault rifle. Despite the fact that, somehow, no one died, a shooting in Chicago resembled the sort of crime scene found in shootings that become national tragedies.
Although the type of weapon used Thursday remains relatively rarely used — federal data show 97 percent of shooting deaths involve handguns — the number of shootings in the city with multiple victims is often overlooked.
The vast majority of shootings in Chicago involve just one or two victims, but data collected by the Tribune show an alarming number of shootings in which sprayed gunfire hits more than one person. Of 2,853 people shot in the city since Jan. 1, 2012, there have been 89 shootings involving three victims, according to the Tribune data. In the same period there were 31 incidents in which four people were shot, and nine incidents in which five people were shot. The tally includes homicide victims.
Police and other experts were hard-pressed Friday to recall a shooting with so many victims, although shootings involving nine victims happened on the South Side in 2009 and 2010.
Three-victim shootings rank among the more common incidences of multivictim gun violence since Jan. 1, 2012, according to the data. One 27-year-old woman died this May, eight days after she was shot in the neck, alongside two other victims, outside a family prom party near Roosevelt Road and Kolin Avenue in North Lawndale. The weapon used in the attack apparently was an AK-47-style rifle, or one of the two TEC-9 machine pistols police found discarded half a block away.
At least three people, including a 15-year-old boy, were shot in a single episode in the West Englewood neighborhood in early June of this year. The boy was somewhere else on the block and shot and wounded in the leg. Officials did not believe he was the intended target.
During a violent Fourth of July weekend this year, a 24-year-old man died shortly after two men stepped from a dark sedan and fired on a group of people standing on the 1000 block of West Maxwell Street, not far from new police and fire stations. Two others were injured. Over the same holiday weekend, a 26-year-old man was hit in the head and died after he and two other men were shot in the 6600 block of South Champlain Avenue.
Liam Ford and Rosemary Regina Sobol contributed.