CHICAGO - For several years, Jerry Dale Sr. and his neighbors have shut down their block near the border of Roseland and West Pullman for a Fourth of July cookout where everyone sets up lawn chairs outside and mingles while children play and ride bicycles until they’re tuckered out.
While the tradition has gone off for a decade without incident, that streak came to an end shortly after 1 a.m. Monday, as the group cleaned up from the festivities. A gray SUV drove down the 100 block of East 119th Street and sprayed the crowd of about 50 people — including at least 15 children — with bullets, Dale and Chicago police said.
While Dale’s 11-year-old grandson ditched his bike in the street and dove into the grass in an attempt to get out of harm’s way, others jumped over fences into backyards or hid behind cars.
But Dale’s daughter, Katina Manuel, wasn’t able to escape the carnage. She yelled, "‘I have been shot! I have been shot!’" Dale recalled. And next to her was her own 6-year-old daughter, who was also hit: "‘My hand! My hand! My hand!’" she cried out, Dale said.
Police said the two weren’t the intended targets of the shooting.
Manuel, 43, is listed as the principal at John Whistler Elementary School in West Pullman. She couldn’t be reached, and CPS officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment late Tuesday.
Manuel and her young daughter were among the 104 people who were shot — 19 fatally — over the deadliest and most violent weekend this year in Chicago. At least 13 children were wounded in the shootings.
‘Is she going to be all right?’
Dale estimated it took Chicago Police officers 10 to 15 minutes to respond to the shooting. By the time they had arrived, Manuel’s brother had taken her to Roseland Hospital, where she was treated for a gunshot wound that went in her side and out her back, Dale said. Her father said she was in good condition since the bullet missed all major organs.
An ambulance took the 6-year-old girl, who had a bullet go through her hand, to Comer Children’s Hospital, where she was treated and released, her grandfather said.
After the little girl was taken away, Dale said her cousin and best friend cried to him, asking: "‘Is she going to be all right? I’m worried about her.’"
On Tuesday, Dale was still trying to grapple with what had happened.
"They got families of they own and they know this is an annual event and they felt safe until this year," he said of his adult children.
Dale saw his granddaughter earlier in the day. She told him to kiss her hand, which is in a cast.
"She don’t understand," he said. "She asked her mother, ‘Well, Mama, why me and you only one get shot?’ You know, why should a 6-year-old child have to ask her mother that?"
Shootings, murders on the rise on Far South Side
West Pullman has experienced 18 murders through July 6 compared to just seven murders last year at this point, Sun-Times data shows. There were only two murders in 2019.
Shootings are also on the rise, with 71 through July 4 compared to 33 in 2020 and 23 in 2019.
Roseland experienced 14 murders through July 6 compared to 9 murders last year but 15 murders in 2019. Shootings increased to 71 through July 4 compared to 51 in 2020 and 61 in 2019.
A Chicago police spokesperson declined to comment if the increased crime led to a greater police presence in the neighborhood during the Fourth of July weekend, saying, "Out of an abundance of caution for officers and community members, we do not discuss patrol or deployment strategies."
Dale said the people behind the shootings aren’t worried about getting caught.
"Back when I was growing up, I have seen nothing like this. … They have no fear of the police at all," Dale said. "Frankly, I think CPD is afraid of them, but that’s just my opinion."
Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) blamed the increase in violence on fewer police patrols in his ward. He says there are fewer violence interrupters, too.
"The uptick that you’re seeing in my particular community is a direct attribute to the fact that the superintendent has taken police out of my district," Beale said.
Beale said Supt. David Brown didn’t change the policing strategy for his area for the notoriously violent holiday weekend: "This was the same script … moved from one weekend to the next."
"We are still we’re doing the same thing over and over again, hoping and praying that there’s a different result and it’s not working," Beale said.
Policing not enough
But Diane Latiker, founder of the Roseland and West Pullman anti-violence group Kids off the Block, disagreed, saying Chicago police had a huge presence in her neighborhood over the holiday weekend. But that’s not enough.
"They were out here in full force compared to a normal day and I can’t say they didn’t step it up, because they really did," Latiker said. "What we are missing here is that police are just a small part in preventing these shootings and it’s not the whole solution. What we are doing now — and have been doing for years now — is putting a bandaid on an open sore."
Latiker said she didn’t know the latest victims in West Pullman but their stories have become increasingly familiar: children out enjoying the summer with family and friends only for the scene to end in tragedy, she said.
"I am so frustrated, angry and it’s exhausting," Latiker said. "Every year at this time I talk to the media and it’s always the same questions asking me to react about the bloody symptoms of what the root problem is. Everyone knows what is going on and what we need to do to fix this problem, but there is never a focus on that."
Those solutions, she said, have been reiterated in countless studies and show how a lack of resources and investment perpetuates a cycle of violence. Only focusing on policing strategies takes away from fixing the root problems causing crime, she said.
"Policing is part of the solution, but it’s not what is going to keep our young people safe," Latiker said.