BURNSIDE — The day after six people were shot outside a slain rapper’s funeral at Bethlehem Star Missionary Baptist Church, neighbors and local officials rallied for an “emergency” town hall meeting aimed at ending the violence.
The shooting began at 12:30 p.m. Monday outside of the church at 9231 S. Cottage Grove Ave. after a funeral for 25-year-old Vantrease Criss, who rapped under the name Dooski The Man.
Bethlehem Star Missionary Baptist Church senior pastor Roosevelt Watkins III said Monday’s shooting “traumatized hundreds of people.”
“We cannot continue to remain silent in our community when we hear about the violence and when we see the violence and conduct business as usual, this is not the norm in our community and this is not acceptable,” Watkins said. “Many of us know who the shooters are in the community and we are doing nothing about it. So tonight instead of us doing what’s been done in the past, point the finger at the police, point the figure at the politicians, and even point the finger at the preachers, tonight we want to come with solutions.”
Watkins was joined by Ald. Michelle Harris (8th), Ald. David Moore (17th), State Sen. Elgie Sims (17th), Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st), Cook County Commissioner Stanley Moore (4th), New Beginnings Church of God pastor Corey Brooks, Bishop James Dukes and other neighborhood officials at the town hall.
Ahead of the funeral, police planned a presence inside and outside of the church in an effort to stop any violence that could potentially break out, said Police Cmdr. William J. Bradley, who oversees the Gresham (6th) Police District. He assigned a squad car to monitor the area outside the church, but a nearby SWAT incident and an situation where an officer required assistance pulled some cops from the area, he told about 60 community members in the church.
“During the time when they were settling that incident is when we received all of the shots fired calls. …I was actually the first officer to respond on scene,” Bradley said, who called the shooting aftermath “chaotic.”
Police are reviewing surveillance video from the area, and an investigation is ongoing, Bradley said. Many people who attended the funeral were armed, he said.
“The last thing I want is for anyone to get hurt,” he said. “I work long hours, I get a little bit of sleep, I grew up in the neighborhood around here and I am very invested in what goes on around here and I’ve invested in preventing what’s been happening.”
Ald. Moore said developing South Side neighborhoods, keeping streets clean and creating more jobs in the area can help stop some of the crime in the community.
“A clean community is a safe community is a working community,” he said. “When it’s safe, then we can help bring economic development and get people working.”
Ald. Harris said the city officials can’t quell violence by throwing “money at this issue.”
“This is going to be a real culture change for all of us as a community on how we deal with our children. How do we deal with our children who are in pain? Because you got to be in pain to come here and shoot some people you don’t even know that you’re mad about an issue that you don’t even know about because you can’t even remember about,” Harris said. “What we are doing is not working. Let’s figure out a way to fix it.”