By Mary Wisniewski
CHICAGO (Reuters) – Gang members sprayed bullets into a Chicago city park last week – injuring a three-year-old boy and 12 other people – after one of them had been grazed by a bullet hours earlier, police said on Tuesday.
The four men, who are being held without bond on charges of attempted murder, were not aiming at anyone in particular, but believed the park was controlled by a rival gang, Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said.
“There wasn’t an intended individual…,” McCarthy said.
One of the men, Tabari Young, 22, who has been arrested more than a dozen times, used a military-grade weapon in the shooting, police said.
The man who had been wounded earlier, Bryon Champ, 21, also fired into the crowded park. Champ, a convicted felon, should not have been armed and on the streets, McCarthy said.
“When Mr. Champ was shot, he believed the rival gang controlled the territory of Cornell Park…they went to shoot up the park,” McCarthy said.
Police said Kewane Gatewood, 20, supplied the military-grade weapon and Brad Jett, 22, served as a lookout.
Last Thursday’s shooting drew national attention just days after a gunman killed 12 people in an attack at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.
McCarthy and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have struggled to contain street crime from gang wars in the poor, mostly African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods of the nation’s third largest city.
Emanuel called for a three-year minimum prison sentence for illegally carrying a gun on the city’s streets. “One of the shooters should have been behind bars rather than in Cornell Park,” the mayor said in a statement.
Champ had been convicted of unlawful use of a weapon in July 2012 and sentenced to boot camp, an alternative to prison, at a Cook County facility.
“He received boot camp for that gun crime and was back on the streets to be a part of this senseless shooting. That is unacceptable,” said McCarthy.
The four men are charged on three counts of attempted murder, aggravated battery with a firearm, police said, adding additional charges were expected.
The shooting took place in the Back of the Yards neighborhood in a park where residents were enjoying a basketball game on a warm evening.
Among those wounded was three-year-old Deonta Howard, who was shot in the head. Howard has undergone surgery and is expected to recover.
Gun violence in Chicago led to more than 500 murders in 2012, according to a report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. New York City, with three times Chicago’s population, had 419 murders in 2012, the FBI said.
The number of homicides in the city so far this year has subsided, down 21 percent, according to the police department.
Chicago this year loosened one gun rule, abolishing its registry of gun owners after its gun control law was ruled unconstitutional by the courts. Illinois this year approved the concealed carrying of guns.