By Chinta Strausberg
After spending most of the night at the corner of 79th and Carpenter—the scene of a mass shooting where 15 people were shot while ironically attending a funeral of a man who had been shot—Father Michael L. Pfleger, pastor of Saint Sabina Church, offered a $15,000 reward leading to the arrest of those responsible for the shooting outside of the Rhodes Funeral Home, 1018 West 79th Street.
Father Pfleger’s $15,000 reward includes $1,000 for each of the victims allegedly shot by gunmen in a stolen car spraying the crowd with up to 60 bullets, according to Chicago police.
For years, Father Pfleger has held anti-violence marches throughout the Auburn Gresham community, but when he spent most of Tuesday night outside of the crime scene and saw people crying, he told reporters, “It was overwhelming.” Bodies and blood were everywhere as were approaching ambulances to tend to the injured.
The scene of the crime is the same corner where Father Pfleger’s son, Jarvis Franklin, 17, was caught in the crossfires of gang warfare on May 30, 1998. At that time,
Father Pfleger had just performed a wedding at Saint Sabina, and when he was told about the shooting and the possibility that his son may have been shot, he ran all the way down to 79th and Carpenter.
Father Pfleger cradled his son’s head and prayed, but young Jarvis later died. His killer has never been caught. Over the years, Father Pfleger has included the corner of 79th and Carpenter in his marches and in his public prayers for gangbangers to put their guns down and give peace a chance.
“Put the guns down. Save our babies,” Pfleger bellowed with his supporters echoing his plea.
A decade ago in an effort to curb the gun violence, Father Pfleger began to include basketball stars to join him on his weekly peace marches since the youth would run when they saw the marchers. Slowly, the gangbangers began to join Father Pfleger and talk to and take photos with the sports stars.
Armed with his Saint Sabina employment staff, Father Pfleger began to reach out to the youth offering them free GED classes, job interview training and jobs for those who wanted to give up a life of crime. He even bought suits for those who wanted a job.
Father Pfleger began an annual basketball tournament where he brought together gangbangers, who once shot at each other, to shoot ball peacefully inside of the ARK of Saint Sabina at 78th and Racine—a safe haven for the gangs who wanted to give peace a chance.
“It was the hardest thing I have ever done,” Father Pfleger once told this reporter. “I had to rent separate buses to take them to the ARK.” However, once there, besides playing ball, Father Pfleger and other leaders fed, mentored and helped them with their social/economic problems. Father Pfleger showed them love, and they responded.
Having brokered at least a dozen gang truces, today’s spike in gun warfare is particularly hard for Father Pfleger, who still mourns the loss of his son to “senseless” gun- fire, but it also brings another element into the already tense picture—150 federal agents being dispatched to Chicago by President Donald Trump.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot has made it clear to Trump that the agents are to work on reducing the gun flow and not interact with protesters.
The agents have been criticized by elected officials of cities, like Portland, Oregon where they are not welcomed and blamed them for inciting more violence by throwing flash bangs, tear gas, beating them and snatching protesters and placing them in unmarked cars without being charged with a crime.
“It’s unconstitutional,” Mayor Lightfoot said, “and I will not tolerate it here in Chicago.”