Chicago Police Were Monitoring The Funeral That Ended With 15 People Shot

Chicago police car
Bill Healy / WBEZ
Chicago police car
Bill Healy / WBEZ

Chicago Police Were Monitoring The Funeral That Ended With 15 People Shot

Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown said his department had two squad cars and a full tactical team guarding a funeral Tuesday evening in Auburn-Gresham, but it wasn’t enough to prevent 15 people from being shot in a gun battle that officials said was the escalation of an ongoing gang conflict.

The mass shooting Tuesday outside of a funeral home in the 1000 block of West 79th Street left 15 people wounded, 10 women and five men. Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan said one victim was in “extremely critical condition” and another was in critical condition, with the rest of the wounded expected to recover.

The shooting started at about 6:30 pm Tuesday when a stolen black Chevrolet Malibu drove past the funeral and two people inside started shooting, Deenihan said at a Wednesday morning press conference. Members of the funeral party returned fire. In total, 60 shots were fired, according to police. The Malibu crashed during the shootout and the people inside fled.

Following the shooting, police took one “person of interest” into custody for questioning, but that individual was released Wednesday afternoon, according to police Officer Anthony Spicuzza, who did not say why the individual was let go and would only say that the investigation was ongoing.

Deenihan said they believe three people were inside the car that started the shooting, including two “shooters.”

Brown said police were monitoring the funeral because the deceased had been killed about a week earlier in a drive-by shooting that was part of an ongoing “gang rivalry.”

Deenihan said that murder was itself retaliation for a previous shooting.

Brown said the department regularly monitors funerals for people killed in “gang conflicts” because of the potential for gun violence.

In recent years, there have been multiple shootings during or after funerals and memorials. In 2018, six people were shot leaving a funeral for a local rapper. And last year, 13 people were shot during a memorial in the Englewood neighborhood.

Anti-violence activist Tamar Manasseh, founder of the group Mothers Against Senseless Killings, wrote on social media that she had warned police that Tuesday’s funeral was a potential shooting target and expressed frustration that CPD had not done enough to keep people safe.

“Please tell me how this happened AFTER the police had been notified that it would?” she posted shortly after the shooting.

“We’re sitting ducks! They are going to let us all … die!” Manasseh posted a few minutes later.

During Wednesday’s press conference, Brown did not deny police had been tipped off to the potential for violence, but said “regardless of the warnings given, if we didn’t even get a warning, we treat every [gang] funeral or wake or repast the same way.”

Brown also said he wanted to “correct the record” that police had not adequately prepared for violence at the funeral, saying it was “not an accurate account of what happened” to say CPD had only stationed one patrol car at the funeral.

The information that CPD had posted a single car outside of Tuesday’s funeral came directly from First Deputy Superintendent Eric Carter, who said Tuesday night that “a car” had been assigned to the funeral as a “precaution.”

Ultimately, whatever precautions police took were not enough. The victims of the shooting range in age from 21 to 65, according to police. Only two of the shooting victims were previously “known to police,” according to a CPD press office.

The shooting near the funeral home comes during a Chicago gun violence surge.

Chicago has had 429 homicides this year, according to a WBEZ analysis of Cook County medical examiner’s office data through Monday. The number is up 49% from 2019 and it’s more than any year since 1996.

“The impact of these bullets goes beyond pain and grief. These bullets are destroying our sense of safety in our neighborhoods. These bullets also leave the survivors with a feeling of hopelessness. Those who experience a shooting wonder if they might be the next person shot. Imagine living with that feeling day after day,” Brown said on Wednesday. “This cycle of violence in Chicago needs to end. It ends when someone who has been hurt doesn’t reach for a gun. It ends when instead someone calls our detectives, gives them a tip that might break a case open and we can hold people accountable in the criminal justice system.”

On Wednesday afternoon, President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr announced that federal agents will surge into several American cities, including Chicago, to help local authorities combat rising crime.

Earlier in the week, sources said Trump’s administration planned to assign about 150 federal agents to help stop the gun violence in Chicago, a city that already has about 13,000 police officers and hundreds of federal agents.

Trump pointed to rising gun violence in the city, where more than 63 people were shot, 12 fatally, over the weekend.

Usually, the Justice Department sends agents under its own umbrella, like agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives or the Drug Enforcement Agency. But this surge effort will include Department of Homeland Security Investigations officers, who generally conducts drug trafficking and child exploitation investigations. Lightfoot, who had threatened to sue if Donald Trump acted without her permission, said on the city would be working with the federal agents to fight crime.

Lightfoot has been skeptical of federal agents being sent to Chicago due to the controversy in Portland, Oregon, where the Trump administration sent federal officers after weeks of protests there over police brutality and racial injustice that followed the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

WBEZ’s Chip Mitchell and the Associated Press contributed reporting for this story.

Patrick Smith is a reporter on WBEZ’s Criminal Justice Desk. Follow him @pksmid. Email him at psmith@wbez.org.