CHICAGO (AP) – A 6-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed his 3-year-old brother while playing "cops and robbers" with a gun their father told investigators he had obtained illegally from a gang member, Chicago police said Sunday.
Police said the two boys were playing Saturday evening when the older boy reached on top of the refrigerator and grabbed the loaded handgun and then accidentally shot 3-year-old Eian Santiago in the face. The boy was rushed to a hospital, where he died later that night.
Police subsequently arrested the boys' father, 25-year-old Michael Santiago, on a felony child endangerment charge. During a court hearing on Sunday, Assistant state's Attorney Joseph DiBella said that Santiago bought the gun off the street, kept it "wrapped in pajama pants on top of the refrigerator" and even showed the boy where the gun was.
"He kept the gun for protection because he was a former gang member who snitched on a gang member in a murder trial," the Chicago Tribune reported DiBella as saying in court. Santiago had told police about the gun in a videotaped confession, DiBella said.
Judge James Brown set Santiago's bail at $75,000. Santiago was represented by the county's public defender's office. The office was closed on Sunday and could not be reached for comment.
Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said the case tragically illustrates a point he has been making for years about how a major cause of much of Chicago's violent crime is the flood of illegal guns into the city.
"It's real simple," McCarthy said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Sunday. "If that gun is not in the house that kid is alive today. We see this happen over and over and over again."
McCarthy routinely points out that his officers seize many times more illegal guns than any city in the nation, including the larger cities of New York and Los Angeles. The department has seized more than 5,500 illegal weapons thus far in 2015.
Chicago also has more homicides than any city in the nation, and the number this year has climbed, with department statistics showing there were 370 homicides as of Oct. 4, compared to 306 for the same period last year. The number of shooting incidents also has climbed during the same period to 1,870 from 1,581 last year.
Some members of the city council recently called for McCarthy to resign because they said he had failed to stem the violence.
But McCarthy said that even when people are convicted in Chicago of gun possession the sentences in Illinois are not as long as they should be and dangerous criminals are back on the street within months or even weeks.
"Until something happens with these gun laws, it's going to continue," he said.