As President Obama was poised to attend Sunday’s memorial for the 12 people killed at Washington's Navy Yard, firefighters in his hometown were using a hose to wash the blood from a basketball court where 13 people were shot on Thursday night, including a 3-year-old boy.
The boy, Deonta Howard, was the most seriously wounded, with a bullet entering his ear and exiting his cheek. But he was expected to survive, as were all the others. They were at once an unlucky, but very lucky, 13.
“It’s a miracle there was no fatality,” Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy told a Friday morning press conference.
McCarthy reported that at least one gunman armed with an assault rifle had fired into the court at Cornell Square Park.
"A military-grade weapon on the streets of Chicago is simply unacceptable," he said.
Where gun-rights activists invoke the Second Amendment against any effort for meaningful gun control, McCarthy invoked the truly inalienable right of people simply to be out in the park, living their lives.
"Illegal guns, illegal guns, illegal guns drive violence,” he declared.
Over the past year, the Chicago police have reduced murders and shootings by more than 20 percent, with 84 fewer murder victims and 414 fewer shootings compared to the same period last year. Cops there have recovered 5,169 firearms so far this year.
But along with the 13 shot on the basketball court on Thursday night, another five were shot around the city by morning, three of them fatally.
And now with little Deonta, who is known as “Tay Man,” a total of nine children under the age of 8 have been shot in Chicago since July.
The adults who have fallen victim to gun violence include Tay Man’s uncle, 21 year-old Jerome Wood, who was one of 33 shot over Labor Day weekend. He was killed in public view in the middle of the afternoon.
Most of the shootings are said to be gang-related and are accompanied by the worry of retaliation. The killing of a 17-year-old near the Dulles School for Excellence prompted the principal to suspend afternoon football practice on the new playing field that opened just this year, as the players have helmets and shoulder pads, but no bulletproof vests to protect them from stray rounds.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel presided at a ribbon cutting for the new field and adjoining playground on September 13 as the team and cheerleaders stood in attendance. He crouched down at one point to tie a youngster’s shoelaces, but he departed without taking questions from reporters. They no doubt would have asked about football practice having been temporarily moved to 7 a.m., when gunfire is less likely.
In one bit of good news, the school reported on Friday that the afternoon practice had been reinstated. But too much of the city remains under constant threat of gun violence despite the heroic efforts of the police and community leaders.
Chicago’s most prominent citizen, President Obama, remains largely silent regarding shootings in his hometown, even those within blocks of his house, one right on his corner. One exception was the killing of a 15-year-old girl who had just attended his inauguration. He has said nothing about the children shot in recent weeks.
At least there was the voice of Superintendent McCarthy rising in outrage. His words apply as much to the murdered 12 at the Navy Yard as to the victims in Chicago.
“This is not something we can accept and say is OK in a civilized society,” he said after Fire Engine 123 had washed the blood from the court.