Chicago is gearing up to deploy an additional 1,200 police officers throughout the city’s streets for this upcoming Fourth of July weekend, following recent gun violence that didn't even spare young children.
The two weekends heading into the long holiday this year ended with a combined total of 111 people being shot in Chicago, 24 fatally. The victims included a 1-year-old riding in a car with his mother and a 10-year-old girl who was inside her home when a bullet fired a block away pierced a window and struck her in the head.
“We didn’t do it last weekend and the Memorial Day weekend,” Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department David Brown told reporters Monday. “This weekend... we’ll have an additional 1,200 cops every day from Thursday through Sunday.”
Brown took over as superintendent during the coronavirus pandemic, when there was an effort to release as many jail detainees as possible to keep them from contracting the virus. The number of Cook County Jail inmates decreased by more than 1,600 between May 1 and June 1.
But on Monday, Brown vowed to push others in the criminal justice system to keep those arrested on drug and gun charges locked up longer.
“We’re pleading [with the court system] to keep them in jail for the weekend,” he said, explaining that the people arrested for dealing or buying drugs on street corners may not be charged with violent crimes, but that such activity often leads to gun fights between violent gangs.
The July 4 weekend is a key test for Brown, largely because the bloodshed over the long Memorial Day weekend – when 49 people were shot, including 10 who died – was met with criticism from city leadership.
“This was a fail, and whatever the strategy is, it didn’t work,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot told reporters at the time.
Chicago typically experiences more gun violence during holiday weekends in the warmer months, but it has been particularly worrying that the bloodshed has continued at a high rate during the nonholiday weekends that followed Memorial Day.
After a bloody Father’s Day weekend in which more than 100 people were shot, 14 of them fatally, this most recent weekend ended with 62 people being shot, and again 14 killed.
Ten-year-old girl Lena Marie Nunez was killed when a stray bullet shattered the window and struck her head while she was inside her second-floor family apartment in the 3500 block of West Dickens on Saturday night. The charred glass wounded her 8-year-old cousin, police said.
That same day, a 20-month-old baby, Sincere Gaston, was shot dead in broad daylight while strapped in a car seat alongside his mother in the Englewood neighborhood. Hours earlier, a 17-year-old boy died of a gunshot wound after becoming implicated in a fight while in a "large crowd," authorities stated.
"Too many times children are killed," Police Chief Fred Waller said at a news conference after the 20-month-old died. "It seems like just yesterday, and it was actually last Saturday, I was in front of you all talking about a 3-year-old kid. … When is this gonna stop?"
In response to those shootings, Lightfoot tweeted that “the pain of losing a child never goes away.
“Today, we lost more young people to the gun violence epidemic: a 17-year-old in Humboldt Park and a 1-year-old in Englewood,” she added. “As a mother, I am tired of the funerals. I am tired of burying our children.”
In all, Chicago has seen drops in the number of shootings over the past three years, but this year it is a different story. Nearly six months into the year, there have been 82 more homicides and 530 more shooting victims than during the same period last year.
Fox News’ Hollie McKay and The Associated Press contributed to this report.