NEAR WEST SIDE — Just before 6 a.m. Sunday, steady rounds of gunshots woke a sleeping Eartha Sutton.
Sutton, a pastor at New Zion Missionary Baptist Church, turned on the TV to see the aftermath of two shootings that left three people dead and five others wounded just blocks from her apartment on the Near West Side.
Sutton said she was “alarmed” by the callous actions that left so many shot in a matter of hours.
“This is straight purge right here…It doesn’t make sense,” the New Zion pastor said. “It’s happening and there is no sane or sound reason for it. That’s a problem.”
“It’s time to say ‘enough is enough,’” Sutton said “I want to see us sit down together and… protect one another because we are our brother’s and sister’s keeper.”
On Tuesday evening, Sutton joined 12th District Commander Stephen Chung, Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) and a handful of residents gathered in prayer and solidarity at ABLA Homes, 1324 S. Loomis St. — the Chicago Housing Authority development where two fatal shootings took place.
Addressing 12th District officers, Commander Chung described Memorial Day weekend as “rough” and said this was an opportunity to build trust and cooperation with residents and elected officials to ensure the safety of the community.
Early Sunday morning at 1:33 a.m., officers responded to the 1300 block of West Hastings Street where a large party was taking place. There, they found 27-year-old John Benford was unresponsive on the sidewalk with a gunshot wound to his chest, police and the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office said.
He was taken to Stroger Hospital where he was pronounced dead, police said.
A 25-year-old woman was shot in her left arm and drove to Stroger Hospital where her condition had stabilized. A 19-year-old was also shot and drove to Mount Sinai Hospital with a gunshot wound to his upper right arm and upper left leg, police said.
His condition was unknown.
Just hours later at 6:02 a.m., police received another call of shots fired at the same address. Upon arrival, they found Martez Cox, 27, and Antonio Green, 28, who were taken to Stroger Hospital and pronounced dead, police and the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office said.
Two women, ages 31 and 25, were also wounded in the gunfire. They drove themselves to Mount Sinai Hospital and were listed in good condition, police said.
Tevin Covens, 25, of the 6300 block of South Albany Avenue and Lawrence Wilkins, of the 1600 block of South Komensky Avenue were arrested and charged with the 6 a.m. shooting, police said.
Across the city, 46 people were shot—seven fatally during Memorial Day weekend.
“Neglected For Too Long”
Following the shootings, Ald. Sigcho-Lopez spent hours at ABLA homes “assessing the situation,” speaking with Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Commander Chung, along with residents, to evaluate immediate and longterm efforts to secure safety for nearby residents.
“It is unacceptable to see the level of violence that we have reached,” Sigcho-Lopez said.
“I was sad to see the loss of three young lives and the number of people wounded. We want to make sure that we walk together as a community.”
Sigcho-Lopez said the ABLA Homes and the surrounding area have been “neglected for too long” and there needs to be ways to address the root causes of violence. He said job opportunities, local business investment and additional educational opportunities for youth and young adults would help.
“If we don’t invest in our communities, we will continue to see this happening,” the alderman said.
The newly elected alderman said he is working with the ABLA Homes Advisory Council, reaching out to the Chicago Housing Authority, as well as Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), whose ward also includes a portion of ABLA Homes, to come up with an effective strategy to better serve the community to prevent such incidents.
“We have a commitment to make sure that going forward, that we don’t see this violence continue to happen,” he said.
Mary Ann Baggett, 49, has lived at ABLA all her life and said more could have been done by the police to prevent and disband the party before it escalated to a point where lives were lost.
Moving forward, Baggett — who heads the Local Advisory Council — said she wants to see more visible police during the summer as well as more resources and opportunities for youth and young adults.
“A lot of kids here have nowhere to go,” she said.
ABLA Homes resident DeShawn Green, 26, echoed Baggett, saying there were too few opportunities for residents who live in the complex.
“I want all this violence to stop,” he said. “We need to reflect on how to stop the violence, put the gun down and live life.”
Green acknowledged that even after coming together, the city and elected officials need to do their part in bringing more jobs and opportunities to the community that, he said, has been overlooked for too long.
Before Antonio Green was gunned down Sunday, the 28-year-old was described as a “great individual” who had “changed his life,” Baggett and his friend DeShawn Green said.
“He didn’t deserve it,” Baggett said
For the past nine months, Green had been been working as a carpenter with Mikk Construction which was rehabbing apartments at ABLA homes.
Owen Pittman, owner of Mikk Construction, said Green was a “bright,” “driven” young man who went from learning how to be a carpenter, to now training new workers and was on the path of beginning an apprenticeship to learn how to do electrical work.
“It’s heartbreaking,” he said.
Lerico Pittman, who worked with Green at Mikk Construction, called the shootings that claimed his friend and coworker’s life “senseless.”
“Ain’t nowhere safe in Chicago,” Lerico Pittman said.
Like Sigcho-Lopez and others at the complex, Lerico Pittman said if there were “more jobs, and more schooling…we can change lives.”
“We might not be able to save everyone, but if we save five lives, I think it’s a plus. I think it’s a start,” he said.
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