By Erick Johnson, Chicago Crusader
Emotions are running high in Chicago’s Black community as area residents, law enforcement, and community leaders as well as activists scramble to find answers to end the city’s escalating gun violence. Shootings over a three-day period involving the tragic deaths of three young children have left many angry and vowing to take action.
Yet the future appears grim for many neighborhoods where perpetrators of gun violence walk the streets freely.
The recent homicides have created a sense of urgency among city officials seeking to stop the rising gun violence. Anger is spreading across Chicago in the wake of the senseless shootings that killed two-year-old Lavontay White, Jr., 11-year old Takiya Holmes, and 12-year-old Kanari Gentry Bowers. White and Holmes both died on Tuesday, victims in separate shootings on the South and West Sides.
Bowers died Wednesday afternoon. She was struck in the head by a stray bullet on Saturday, Feb. 11 while playing basketball with friends in West Englewood.
The shootings forced Chicago police to step up efforts in finding the victims’ killers as city officials remain under intense pressure to solve a problem that has drawn national attention and heavy criticism from President Donald Trump.
On Wednesday, Feb. 15, police arrested 19-year-old Antwan C. Jones and charged him with first-degree murder for allegedly killing Takiya Holmes. Police have not made any arrests for the shootings of White, Jr. and Bowers.
At a press conference on Feb. 15, police said Jones had “a lengthy juvenile history.” Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said Jones had been previously identified by the department as being at risk of becoming a victim or an offender of gun violence.
Police believe Jones killed Holmes as she sat in a parked car with other family members outside the TailoRite Dry Cleaners in the 6500 block of S. King Drive on Saturday, February 11. A hail of stray bullets was unleashed as Takiya sat with her mother and aunt in the vehicle. One of the bullets struck Takiya in the head. She died Tuesday morning at the University of Chicago’s Comer Children’s Hospital.
Lavontay White was killed in the West Side Lawndale community on Feb. 14 during a shooting that was broadcast on Facebook Live. He was the youngest victim of gun violence in Chicago since 2013.
Police say a 26-year-old man and his pregnant girlfriend were riding in the car with Lavontay in the back seat, when a gunman emerged from another car in the alley and opened fire. Lavontay was pronounced dead at Stroger Hospital.
The killing of the three innocent young children has cast a dark shadow over a city numb from daily reports of senseless shootings.
“There’s going to be something positive out of this,” said Johnson at a press conference in Lawndale. “We’re here, and we are here to help. We’re trying to uplift our community and uplift our children.”
The families of all three victims were among 200 people who attended a vigil in front of the Parkway Gardens Homes in West Woodlawn Tuesday night. Police blocked S. King Drive from 63rd to 67th Streets as angry residents and activists poured onto the streets to condemn the pointless killings.
Relatives voiced their anger and frustration at the irrational shootings that are spiraling out of control, creating record numbers. With no end in sight, some residents say they believe the situation is hopeless.
“They talk about jobs and recreation for these kids, but that ain’t going to fix the problem. Some of these kids have jobs and they still cause problems,” one woman said.
Another said, “These kids ain’t scared of nobody. They ain’t scared of teachers. They ain’t scared of the police.”
Police Commander Darren W. Moss of the 3rd District tried to encourage the crowd, but his speech did little to comfort the crowd.
Alderman Willie Cochran (20th) was heckled by angry activists who accused him of turning the killings into a political issue. One activist grew disgusted and left the vigil along with a large group of people.
“This is not about politics or the alderman,” one man said. “This time is about the family.”