Thursday, July 24, 2008

News-Star Editorial On Last Week's Wilson Avenue Shootout

A little thing called the U.S. Constitution

Last week an Uptown man found himself caught between a hail of bullets near the corner of Wilson and Malden around 3:30 in the afternoon. Thankfully, the man was able to escape being injured or killed by flooring his car through what appeared to be a gang fight.

The man did the right thing by calling 911. In fact, 23rd District police officers interviewed by News-Star, including the police commander, stated that other witnesses who observed the midday gun fight also called 911. Police confirmed that the incident had indeed taken place.

After meeting police officers at a nearby Walgreens, the man was taken back to the scene of the crime where several male suspects had already been rounded up by police.

From the back of a Chicago police squad car, the man was able to point out the shooters. Since no one was killed or injured, and there was no property damage, police told the man that the shooters could only be charged with a misdemeanor for discharging a firearm within city limits.

Weighing his options, the man decided not to file a complaint. He could not be anonymous and would have to show up to court, where his name and face would then become known to the alleged shooters. He said he would have been glad to file a complaint if he had not feared for his safety.

Before everyone jumps on the man for not "getting involved," there is a little thing called the United States Constitution that presumes innocence for all persons charged with a crime. It also guarantees the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, and the right to a fair trial. The Constitution also grants the accused the right to face their accusers in a court of law.

Eighth-grade civics teaches us that the Constitution was written to protect innocent persons from being unjustly arrested or imprisoned for crimes which they did not commit.

Still, it seems unfair that a citizen trying to do right thing by reporting a crime to police would have to fear for his own safety, especially when he was the victim. Millions of guilty persons have escaped punishment by law when their guilt could not be established beyond a reasonable doubt.

The U.S. Constitution is certainly not a perfect document. Then again, it isn't a perfect world.


  1. Unbelievable.
    Essentially what I take from this article is that the only way we win is when the bangers hit each other, and not miss.
    If they stand on Wilson and fire their guns all day long, they can get away with it as long as no one is hit.

  2. This blows my mind.

    Please people, point these folks out. Do what it takes. Worried that they might come after you? I will take that over them being on the street and hitting a kid with a bullet.

    Folks, have we forgot what Honor is? About doing the right thing no matter what?

  3. It won't matter if they hit and kill someone. If there is a witness, they will still have to agree to testify. They likely would still have to show their face in court to the accused.

    The shooters, even when they make contact, aren't going to cop to pleas unless their rap sheet is pages long. The criminals are smart. They will remain silent. They will request counsel. They will make their accusers show themselves in court.

    There desperately needs to be a support network - maybe that's FORUM - that stands up to ALL intimidation to see that justice is served. This entails providing safe passage for witnesses, making your faces, names, and voices heard loud and clear that you're not going to play this game silently anymore.

    The bangers that come to our neighborhood to sell their wares, conduct their shootouts, and intimidate residents, must be confronted. They're going to know who we are. They have to know who we are.

  4. No property damage?

    What about the woman with the children with her husband deployed in Afghanistan with a bullet in the back of her van?

    Was that all made up?

  5. Point these people out and have some honor and courage. How angry must we get before we take matters into our own hands, how many innocent people must get hurt before this stops. If you are a witness to one of these shootings, pull yourself together and do what it takes!

  6. "No property damage?

    What about the woman with the children with her husband deployed in Afghanistan with a bullet in the back of her van?

    Was that all made up?"

    You're getting your shootings confused, the New-Star article is about last week's shooting, not this week's.

  7. Pablo: Thanks. I was confusing them.

    I really feel better knowing there are shootingS so as to confuse them.

  8. The truth is that without a recovered gun, witnesses are the only proof that there was a crime was committed. So, without a witness stepping foward and going to court there is no crime.

  9. TSOMH,

    I've never lived in a neighborhood where I had to figure out which shooting we're talking about either.

    The only reason I remembered was because I was so outraged last week that these punks were rewarded for their bad aim, and not arrested for attempted murder.

  10. Please reread the article. The witness did not feel comfortable pressing charges knowing that he would have to face the alleged shooter in court. He had to make a decision about his own personal safety. I have no right to judge his decision. I applaud his courage for publicizing the incident, but I will not judge.

  11. Another problem is that when a gang banger shoots another gang banger. The victim gang banger almost never cooperates with the police. So, even if the offender is caught without witnesses the case goes nowhere.

  12. that's why i always hope the suspects have drugs on them when police do their pat downs...

  13. I think Iraq is a safer place to live in at this point. I say let the Gov call in the National Guard. With 3 more killed in the Austin Neighborhood yesterday, we really have become a war zone in the city of Chicago.

  14. Sacrificing personal and perhaps family safety for the sake of honor? Uptown Dad, I don't think honor is what's at stake here.

    It's unreasonable, perhaps even cruel to expect one person to stand up in court, identified, and made vulnerable to an individual or group of individuals engaged in what is essentially a blood feud---especially when there are other means of redressing this problem that have not yet been pursued.

    It’s difficult and traumatizing enough to be caught in gunfire. I know. To impugn a person’s character and essentially ding them for not enduring even more seems needlessly unkind.

    Years ago an economist at the UofC asked an interesting question: Why do so many drug dealers live with their mothers. A surprising number do because, you guessed it, a lot of them are still kids and they don’t make nearly the bank you might think they do. Anyway, his analysis provided some useful insights, one that we can leverage here without jeopardizing anyone’s safety:

    Put the squeeze on housing.

    Focus on individual compliance and eligibility. Force evictions. It's a relatively easy, tightly focused remedy that does not disproportionately burden or jeopardize any one person.

  15. Does someone have pictures of these shooters? It would be nice to know who to avoid when I walk around the neighborhood.

    Glad to know that I can fire a gun in the city and only face a $45ticket so long as I don't hit anyone.

    The question is: If I (white male)shot a gun and hit one of these guys would any witnesses identify me to the police? My guess is that I would receive nothing but smiles and "thanks".

  16. what I'd love to see is all these gang bangers put into an arena and just kill each other until they're all down. They have ZERO worth. ABSOLUTELY ZERO.

  17. The $45.00 is wrong

    8-24-010 Discharging firearms.
    No person shall fire or discharge any gun, pistol, or other firearm within the city, except upon premises used by a duly licensed shooting gallery, gun club, or rifle club, or in accordance with the provisions of Section 8-24-050 of this Code.

    No cannon or piece of artillery shall be discharged or fired off in any public way or other public place within the city, except upon the express permission of the city council.

    Any person violating any of the provisions of this section shall be fined not less than $250.00 nor more than $500.00 for each offense.

    The provisions of this section shall not apply to sheriffs, coroners, constables, members of the police force, or other peace officers engaged in the discharge of their official duties, or to any person summoned by any of such officers to assist in making arrests or preserving the peace while such person so summoned is engaged in assisting such officer.

  18. The US Prison system is completely overcrowded.

    Federal Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's letter last week re the unlawful conditions at Cook County Jail confirms this:

    "According to a letter delivered to Cook County Board President Todd H. Stroger and Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart by Fitzgerald, there exists a "culture of [officers] abusing inmates" at the jail. According to the letter, officers often gang up on inmates, meting out beatings for offenses such as cussing, arguing and refusing to follow instructions.

    While Fitzgerald said he does not condone inmates insulting officers, he also condemned the abuse of inmates.

    "The response is not to engage in beatings of inmates- certainly not organized beatings-and not beatings that end up with inmates being hospitalized," he said.

    Knife fights and other forms of violence are not uncommon in prison, including in Cook County. Over the course of one week in March of this year, 35 fights broke out, according to the Justice Department."

    In light of such realities, I think it is naive to think that any of these Uptown shooters will spend much time in jail even if they are caught. Some innocent person or person(s) is going to have to go down BIG TIME in order for some real anti-criminal action by police to take place in Uptown and other Chicago and U.S. neighborhoods.

    Next, add to the overcrowding and accusations of prisoner abuse the recent Supreme Coury ruling--which deemed restrictions on gun ownership as unconstitutional--and you have yourself one huge messy morass, i.e., a frustrating, confusing, or unmanageable situation that impedes or prevents progress.

  19. "Sacrificing personal and perhaps family safety for the sake of honor? Uptown Dad, I don't think honor is what's at stake here."

    You tell me one Uptown Witness or family man who has been shot for standing up in court? Who? You tell me one law abidding family that has been gunned down for testifying in Uptown. This isnt the Gambino Crime Family people. These are a bunch of uneducated kids running crazy in Uptown.
    Your all watching to many movies.

    I am not judging this person for not standing up. But i don't feel sorry for him either. I do believe that society is lacking Honor, Courage, & Commitment. It is not allright to let a criminal off because of fear. Let fear be your motivation to get these people off the streets. Let fear give you the courage to stand up and fight.

    Sometimes we don't ask to be thrown in the fight, sometimes the fight is brought to us. But when it happens we better be prepared to swing. I didn't ask to be involved in UU, I didn't want to be at all these meetings, i would rather be doing countless other things, but in May those little thugs started shooting outside my door, and they pissed off the wrong guy.

  20. Ummm, so if I get a coroner's license I can fire my 105-mm Howitzer in the city limits? Damn, I chose the wrong profession.

  21. Look, most of the witness either

    A) Are gangbangers themselves. Clearly they're not pointing anyone out.

    B) Live in the same building as the criminals. Think about it, if your next door neighbor was a member of the Vice Lords would you go to the police to turn him in, especially if you knew he'd be out in a day?

    No way am I blaming some regular person for being scared in this situation. I would say something, but then again, nobody in my building is in a gang(unless you count the Philadelphia Eagles Fan Club).

    uptown_dad, I applaud your courage, and I would like to believe that I would do the same, but I cannot fault someone for not wanting to personally stand up these people.

  22. I find it funny that the article is going on about the Constitution. I fully respect all of the Constitution, and hopefully soon we will be able to exercise all of our rights in Chicago.

    Let the gangs start worrying about the innocent bystanders.

  23. Put the squeeze on housing.

    Focus on individual compliance and eligibility. Force evictions. It's a relatively easy, tightly focused remedy that does not disproportionately burden or jeopardize any one person.

    Exactly. They need a base of operations. Take that away and they go away. And it's far less riskier to point out a slum landlord in court than a gangbanger and his buddies. Take away their HQ.

  24. WindyCityEagle

    Ive been in your building, there is a gang of toddlers reaking havoc.

    Like I said, I don't fault him, but at the same time we need to encourage people to stand up. My friend lives on that corner, and his kids could have been out playing.

    Side note on that shooting: The kid they were shooting at is still running around. I saw him running the day of the shooting and pointed him out to police that day.They put him up against the car then had a big chuckle together. Ha ha ha.
    Well last night a few of us were doing some positive loitering and saw the kid sprint by, ducking behind us to pass Sunnyside. He has to sprint down Malden because he is a target ( I assume he did a bad thing in gang world). he uses malden as his safe route, cutting through CHA housing. Well on his way back he was bobbing and weaving and looked to be carrying. So my neighbor called 911.
    he is a Black Male (17-20) 5'9", 160, always has baggy black jeans with the belt at mid thigh. Wears a tight white tank, but at night wears black so not to be shot.
    If you happen to be walking next to a guy that fits this script, walk away because he is a target.

  25. Problem with going after housing, as we all well know, is that Shiller protects the housing.

    She's not going to allow the cops to go in and alienate her (or whomever she picks to succeed her) base of support.

    Hence, she won't comment on the violence and certainly won't do anything to change the status quo.

    The question I have is: What happens when one of the "bad apples" gets caught in the fray and ends up dead on the street?

    And, that's not a matter of "if" but a matter of "when".

  26. Shiller can fast track CHA violation actions.

    The people can inundate the hotlines with complaints.

    The key is the follow up.

  27. "Shiller can fast track CHA violation actions."

    She can, but history shows that she won't.

    And, you're right - it's all about follow up.

    Another thing Shiller refuses to do.

    Not that I want to smack on our beloved alderman, but a lot of these problems could be solved quickly and easily if she simply did something.

    I'm amazed that we find a resident in a situation where he fears for his safety in doing the right thing while the one person who can do the most good sits idly by, counting her campaign donations.

  28. "I'm amazed that we find a resident in a situation where he fears for his safety in doing the right thing while the one person who can do the most good sits idly by, counting her campaign donations"

    That's very troubling. It's a question I'd like to pose to other alderman. What would they do?

  29. It is an unbelievable, but you have to be careful because these street thugs can and will come after you if they get the chance. Recently we called the police on a number of homeless men drinking in the alley in front of our garage. In order for us to get the police to take action, we had to meet them and demand they do something about the situation. These men were fixated on us (and they were stumbling all over the place) and one of them was quite angry, trying to scare us. The nearby neighbor actually warned us from getting involved because he said they'll come back and burn our garage down. The police did a great job this time, rounding them up, taking away their liquor, asking for the IDs, etc. I agree you do have to be brave and have the courage, but you can be putting yourself in danger. We have lived here for over 40 years now and are not new to the problems of living in Uptown. It helps that alot of our neighbors will take some action, so as a community we need to stick together to be more effective. It's been only a week now but so far homeless men drinking and living in our alley for a whole 6 days now. That is a record in over a year since we first started reporting this problem to the police. So please continue to call the police, go to your local CAPS meetings, make things as difficult as possible for criminals in the area who live here too....I read another person's comment on UU about contacting landlords about problematic tenants--- that has actually worked in a few cases on our block, especially when more than one neighbor writes/tells/calls them about what they have observed.

  30. Until law abiding citizens are allowed to protect themselves this scenario will repeat itself. I can't blame the witness for not filing a complaint he has to think about his safety and any retribution that may take place. As long as the criminals carry weapons they have the upper hand.

  31. "As long as the criminals carry weapons they have the upper hand."

    Which brings to mind this:

    If these kids could be charged with illegally discharging their weapons in public, what about being charged for possessing the handgun?

    I thought there was a handgun ban in this town (for now).

    Shouldn't they be charged with possession?

  32. Did the police find a firearm? Did they find it on someone? Did they find it in the grass? If so, are there any fingerprints on it? Can they be matched?

    You may think the cops just play dumb, but they play the game with a set of rules that speaks of "arrests, indictments, and convictions".

  33. I am sure there will be more A LOT news about this, but help spread the word....

    Community Safety Meeting with State Senator Heather Steans, State Rep. Greg Harris, and 23rd District Police Commander

    Wednesday, July 30
    6:30 p.m.
    Truman College Cafeteria

    Thank you Sen. Steans and Rep. Harris for hearing your constituents, responding and involving yourselves in organizing something that should have done by the alderman!

  34. What ever happened to charging the guy firing the gun in the first place with attempted murder? So if you miss someone you are trying to kill it becomes a misdemeanor? Are these cops retarded?

  35. Dang TJM...I sent that to UU for breaking news.

    Who is your UptownDaddy now folks?

    Breaking news TJM steals breaking news.

  36. Sorry Uptown Dad. Happened to be at my computer while on the phone with Sen. Steans and she encouraged me to go ahead and get the word out (I asked first to make sure it was public information)....

  37. Sen Steans knows the pathway for increasing recognition of her name, in order the run for higher office in the future! Smart politician.

  38. bj...There are many ways to be a "smart politician" ... responding to constituents, caring about needs, solving problems...all these positive attributes can add to name recognition.

    One could argue that alderman Shiller is a "smart politician"...but none of the phrases mentioned above would describe her...

  39. Indeed, she's dong all the right things as far as recent developments are concerned, and I applaud her involvement.

    If only she would have supported giving citizens of Illinois a voice (yes or no) on a recall amendment in November, we'd actually be able to hold our elected officials accountable to their actions, or, in our case, their in-actions.

    Maybe some measures/enforcement to ensure that our aldermen and their well-known henchmen stay clear of the polling centers might ease the pain.

  40. I'm new here, so I'm curious about the history of the Sunnyside Mall and how the bad guys took it over. Aren't spaces like this specifically created to provide a safe haven for the "good guys" of an area to play, chat, etc., and keep the "undesirables" away? What happened here and why?

  41. Side note on that shooting: The kid they were shooting at is still running around. I saw him running the day of the shooting and pointed him out to police that day.They put him up against the car then had a big chuckle together. Ha ha ha.

    Once again, I'd like to refer people to the blog "Second City Cop". The apparent police reaction has a number of root causes, one of which is cops are calling "de-policing"

    An excerpt:

    "De Policing
    Nice word:

    The alderman recited a string of statistics that Weis did not challenge. Compared to this time last year, Chicago has had 28 more homicides, 2,626 more gang disturbances, 1,210 more reports of a person with a gun, 7,136 more reports of shots fired and 473 more reports of narcotics sales.

    With crime indicators headed upward, police should be more aggressive, but the opposite has occurred. Gang loitering interventions are down 1,163, narcotics loitering interventions have dropped 2,329, and police have taken 500 fewer guns off Chicago streets.

    Carothers (29th) called it "de-policing," a condition that exists when officers "stop doing their jobs" because they're afraid nobody has their back.

    Afraid? Not afraid Ike, but verified time and time again by evidence before our very eyes. You want to back the purveyors of the cult of victimhood? Fine, but most cops aren't going to step up and become victims themselves. We're kind of fond of our houses, our cars, the lifestyle we can afford to provide our families even in the face of you, Corp Counsel and the City Council handing out our tax dollars to assholes that never would have earned a tenth of that money in the real world doing honest work. Congratulations on getting the police you asked for. Now excuse us while we go do a little more de-policing. Those event numbers won't generate themselves you know."

    Read the comments from other cops:

  42. Gayle,

    Sorry if the situation sounds so dire. The bad guys have not taken over Sunnyside. It belongs to the people, and we still represent on it.

    The cancer that is the gang hangs on it, but when the people show up the gang leaves. Never feel that Sunnyside is of limits, own it with pride.

    The kids, and the adults make Sunnyside great. Check it out, it is a great place, and staple of Uptown.

  43. Uptown-Dad, to answer your question: I have. Gunfire through my windows, death threats, stalking---all because I stood up, went to court, made the ID, which is why until and unless all other avenues of redressing this issue are exhausted, it's foolhardy to take on any degree of personal risk when the likelihood of incarcerating the perpetrator and/or solving the problem is so low.

    Deal with the housing. It’s not a quick fix, it takes persistence and it provides no avenue whatsoever for bitching about what elected official is not doing what. In fact, it’s unsatisfying in most every way other than it has the highest probability of actually solving the problem.