ALBANY PARK — After at least seven people were shot in Albany Park in three days last week, neighbors organized a march and vigil to take a stand against the shootings and to pay tribute to those who have been hurt and killed.
But before the community could gather Sunday afternoon, at least two more people were shot in the area.
More than 200 neighbors, elected officials and family members of victims of gun violence marched through the neighborhood holding signs, chanting, praying and pleading for a stop to the shootings that have rattled Albany Park in recent months.
Dalia Aragon, founder of Israel’s Gifts of Hope Foundation, helped coordinate the event. Aragon formed the organization in honor of her brother, Israel Aragon Jr., who was shot and killed in Albany Park in 2016.
Relatives of Ernie Perez, 26, fatally shot Sept. 14 near Argyle Street and Central Park Avenue, were among the families who attended.
“One thing in common is that we’ve lost loved ones to violence on our streets and we want peace,” Aragon said.
The spate of violence throughout the Albany Park (17th) Police District on the Northwest Side stems from as many as 10 escalating gang-related conflicts, according to Albany Park Police Cmdr. Ronald A. Pontecore Jr.
Shootings have more than doubled this year in Albany Park and Ravenswood Manor, police data show, prompting neighbors to demand more police protection throughout the district.
Within hours of Aragon announcing the event on Facebook on Friday, an 18-year-old man was shot in the 4100 block of West Lawrence and a 38-year-old man was discovered in a car in the 2700 block of West Agatite with multiple gunshot wounds. Both were taken to area hospitals and police are investigating.
Family members identified Hector Alvarez Jr., a married father of five, as the victim in the Agatite shooting. Relatives said Monday they believe the shooting is a case of mistaken identity.
Two members of Perez’s family carried framed pictures of him to the vigil and all Perez family members wore t-shirts with the words “In Loving Memory of Ernie.”
The family did not want to comment but said police have not updated them on the investigation into Perez’s killing.
Neighbors, many with young children in tow, carried signs reading “stop the violence” and “your turf is our turf” as activists addressed the crowd.
For the family of Alexandria Amani Burgos, Sunday’s peace walk and vigil in Albany Park was one of dozens they’ve attended since the 18-year-old was killed by a stray bullet six years ago in Belmont Cragin.
Relatives of Ricky Pike, an aspiring chef killed in Logan Square in 2013, and Roberto Ramirez, who was killed in Albany Park 2018, also attended.
“They all break your heart and it seems like things are getting worse,” said Rafael Burgos, Alexandria’s father. “These kids are out here and have nothing to do. When I was young we had the YMCA. That’s important, but at the same time the State’s Attorney needs to be stronger and keep gun offenders in jail until their court date.”
Angela Sedeño, Director of the Kedzie Center, said there needs to be more community resources for young people to help prevent violence.
“It is a problem when young people feel they have nothing to lose, so we need to give them something to care about,” Sedeño said.
Asked what she would tell the Perez family, Aragon said despite her experience and advocacy work, there wasn’t much she could say.
“They say time heals all wounds but it takes a lot of work and faith,” Aragon said. “There’s no words I can say to them to make it easier, but I’d just say to try to keep his memory alive.”
Alds. Matt Martin (47th), Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez (33rd), Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) and Samantha Nugent (39th), and Illinois State Rep. Jaime Andrade (40th District) attended but did not address the crowd.
Along the route, relatives of 20-year-old Adam Lique gathered and prayed near where he was killed at Lawrence and Monticello Avenues on Sept. 16. Several veladoras — tribute candles — were lit and signs in his honor were taped to a tree.
A few feet from where they sat, a bullet hole was visible in the spider-webbed glass of a Metro PCS store.
Inside the open store, customers continued to shop.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.