Twenty-three days after 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro of Kansas City was killed by a stray bullet while asleep in his bed, his mother was invited to address a White House event announcing an anti-crime initiative named after him.
Also invited to speak was the husband of 55-year-old Jacqueline Vigil of Albuquerque, who was shot to death in her driveway while on the way to the gym.
President Donald Trump offered words of sympathy to both LeGend’s mother, Charron Powell, and Vigil’s husband, Sam. Attorney General William Barr promised that Operation Legend would save others from falling victim to violence by providing teams of federal agents to various cities, including 200 in Chicago.
Barr attempted to present the program as more than an assist to an ongoing effort by solemnly saying the first duty of government is the safety of its citizens. Both Barr and Trump decried the violence in cities, with Trump striving to seem less racist than he is by noting that violence is the leading cause of death among young Black men.
Neither man said anything about guns.
This was a notable omission given that guns were the No. 1 priority in a letter that Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot sent to Trump on Monday outlining what he could do if he really wanted to help reduce violence in her city.
“Starting with passing common sense gun legislation,” Lightfoot said again at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon. “One of the major drivers of the violence in Chicago is we have way too many illegal crime guns on our streets every day.”
She noted that police in Chicago seize more illegal guns each year than in New York and Los Angeles combined.
“The reason is we’re surrounded by streets that have much more lax gun regulations,” she said. “We need the federal government to help crack down on the gun trafficking that is routine unfortunately in our city and ends up in the death of our children.”
She noted, “If the president wants to do something right now, he could do that.”
She was wearing a White Sox uniform as she spoke to reporters gathered outside Guaranteed Rate Field for what was scheduled as a “We Are All One Home Team” event promoting the wearing of masks.
COVID-19 is only one worry in a city that has 117,000 members of 55 major gangs divided into 747 factions with 2,500 subsets that are in perennial conflict with each other. Lightfoot said she would welcome the opportunity presented by Operation Legend to team up with federal agents from the FBI and ATF, DEA, and U.S. Marshals. These are the kind of agents she worked with when she was a federal prosecutor from 1996 to 2002. She noted that her colleagues “back in the day” included Chicago’s present U.S. attorney, John Lausch.
She and Lausch had been talking, planning ways for the feds to join the home team against violence at a time when murder in the city is up 50 percent over last year.
“What we will receive is resources that are going to plug into the existing federal agencies that we work with on a regular basis to help manage and suppress violent crime in our city,” she said.
She made clear there was one thing she will not accept. Fierce as any wall of moms, she declared that her city will not allow federal agents in camouflage to snatch people off the street as they have in Portland.
“The deployment of unnamed special secret agents onto our streets to detain people without cause and to effectively take away their civil rights and civil liberties without due process, that is not going to happen in Chicago,” she said.
She emphasized that even as she accepts the legit federal agents provided by Operation Legend, she and the rest of the city will nonetheless need to remain on guard lest the Trump folks try to go the way of Portland.
“In Portland, they ignored the U.S. attorney, put these agents on the street,” she noted.
She added, “I don't put anything past this administration, which is why we will continue to be vigilant and why we will continue to be ready. If we need to stop them and use the courts to do so, we are ready to do that."
A reminder of the urgent need to do something about guns came hours after Lightfoot spoke and before Trump and Barr’s announcement, when 15 people were shot outside a South Side funeral home. The service was for a 31-year-old suspected gang associate who had himself been shot in a drive-by the week before.
“That one occurred relating to a prior shooting and murder incident,” Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan noted at a Wednesday press conference.
The police had sought to prevent further carnage by posting two squad cars outside the funeral home and a “tactical team” nearby. That did not deter three young men in a stolen Malibu from opening fire as they drove past.
“Members from the crowd are also armed and are firing back,” Police Superintendent David Brown said when later recounting the incident.
Nearly 60 shell casings littered the street. The Malibu crashed, but the gunman managed to escape.
In an unrelated shooting a short time later, a 3-year-old girl was struck in the head when two men fired on the car in which she was riding with her parents. At least five other toddlers have been shot in Chicago this year.
“Too many guns are on our streets and in the hands of people who should never possess them,” Lightfoot said.
And at the White House, Trump said not a word about guns while unveiling an anti-crime initiative named after a 4-year-old who was killed in his bed by a stray round.