Rounds

Chicago Lays Off Prosecutors as Bodies Pile Up

The layoffs came after a judge halted a sugar tax that had already been included in the county budget, and as the shootings keep coming.

Killed. Killed. Killed. Killed. Killed. Killed. Killed. Killed. Killed. Killed. Killed. Killed. Killed. Killed. Killed. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded.

A total of 102 people were shot—15 of them fatally—in Chicago over the Fourth of July weekend.

Killed. Killed. Killed. Killed. Killed. Killed. Killed. Killed. Killed. Killed. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded. Wounded.

Another 52 were shot—10 fatally—there this past weekend.

Just under 2,000 have been shot in the city so far this year.

But the mounting body count did nothing to reduce the revenue shortfall after an Illinois state judge issued a stay on a penny-an-ounce tax on sodas and other unhealthy sweetened beverages that Cook County was due to start collecting this month.

The judge reasoned that there was no feasible way to refund the tax if a merchant’s association prevailed in a lawsuit charging the measure violates a uniformity clause of the state constitution. Like items in Illinois have to be taxed equally. A bottled frappuccino, for example would be taxed under this new levy, while one made at the counter would not be.

No soda tax meant none of the expected added revenue, which had already been included in the county budget. And one result was the Cook County State’s attorney’s office—which handles prosecutions in Chicago—was forced to lay-off 39 employees. Seventeen of them were prosecutors.

That may not seem like much, given that the office still has nearly 700 prosecutors.

But to reduce the ranks at all in the present circumstances is like cutting the number of firefighters battling a five-alarm blaze that is threatening to rage beyond their control.

Imagine if firefighters in the middle of such a conflagration got a memo such as the one that went out at the state’s attorney’s office on Friday.

“We thank all of those affected by this reduction force for their dedication to this office and their time and service opt the citizens of Cook County,” it read in part. “For those who remain, we realize the difficulty of the departures of your colleagues, partners and friends.”

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Later on Friday, a 9-year-old named Gustavo Garcia was riding in an SUV with his 31-year-old stepfather when a car appeared alongside them. Somebody inside began firing.

Gustavo was rushed to Comer Children’s Hospital, which has a level 1 trauma center that handled 53 youngsters with bullet wounds last year. The doctors and nurses there are as expert as anybody at treating young victims of gun violence, but Gustavo proved to be beyond saving. He passed from wounded to killed.

Among those who had raised their voices in outrage at such carnage was 58-year-old William Cooper. He had, by his own forthright admission, been part of the problem in his younger days, when he was known as Too Tall or Big Will, as befits someone 6-foot-8. He had done time in prison, but had returned home determined to become part of the solution.

“He came out and made his mind up to do street repentance,” his best friend and fellow activist, Paul McKinley, told The Daily Beast on Monday. “You get out of jail and you go back to your neighborhood and if you can help one young man to stop living a destructive lifestyle that is your whole quest. That’s what it’s all about.”

And beyond repentance is redemption.

“You’re supposed to do more, as many as you can,” McKinley said.

Cooper had worked as a “violence interrupter” with CeaseFire, which fielded ex-offenders and former gang members to defuse street conflicts with marked effect. The state cut off funding to the organization in 2015.

Cooper had by then founded his own nonprofit, Lilydale Outreach Workers for a Better Future, which provides jobs for teenagers and ex-offenders. He also continued with street repentance turned redemption, seeking out and counseling substance abusers such as he would find outside the liquor store around the corner from Lilydale’s office. He stopped by there late Saturday afternoon, seeking to do more.

“That’s how he do his rounds,” McKinley later said.

A man stepped from a car with an AR-15 assault rifle and stood there in broad daylight, firing on Cooper again and again. Cooper fell with wounds to his mouth and torso. He passed quickly from wounded to killed on pavement littered with more than 20 shell casings.

On Monday, McKinley said the police believe Cooper had been engaged in conflict resolution between two warring gang factions.

“He had been talking to both sides to stop the violence,” McKinley said. “One side felt he may have been closer to the other side. But it was definitely an execution.”

McKinley added, “Everybody don’t want peace.”

On Monday, McKinley was with Cooper’s wife, Sherry Clark, at a local funeral home, making arrangements. Cooper’s funeral is set for Saturday, as another weekend body count commences. Other Chicago activists are expected to attend.

“The activist community is horrified,” McKinley said. “It’s a form of terrorism. But it’s from people feeling like they have impunity.”

Meanwhile, the Chicago Police had released another measure of the state of things there in the form of Community Alert #P17-1-141BCA, dated July 8, regarding a number of robberies in the 1st (Central) District. The description of the perpetrator in a June 29 stick-up jumps off the page.

“A reported six to eight year-old…male displayed a silver handgun and demanded money,” the alert says.

And in the midst of such events as a daylight execution with a military style weapon and a robbery by a tyke with a gun, Chicago has laid off prosecutors because the courts may find that a frappuccino is still a frappuccino in whatever container.

Prosecutors being an essential part of a system that seeks to keep killers from acting with impunity.

Anybody who suggests that the loss of 17 of 700 might not make much of a difference should consider the basic tenet of street repentance, which is that saving even one life is the whole quest.