Funeral home directors react to mass shooting: ‘There is no safe place right now’

After a shooting outside a South Side funeral home wounded 15 people Tuesday, local funeral directors expressed shock while one announced new safety measures to minimize future violence.

“It’s a tragic situation for everyone involved,” said Charles Childs Jr., funeral director of A.A. Rayner & Sons Funeral Home in Park Manor on the South Side

Childs said his facility would limit services to morning hours to minimize the possibility of a retaliatory shooting.

He said the funeral home would continue to request a police presence during funerals for gang members, which is standard protocol for all Chicago funeral homes contacted Wednesday by the Sun-Times.

“It’s a tragedy that these gang members keep exhorting this violence on each other,” Childs said. “It’s a terrible thing for our community. It’s doubly sad for this to be at a funeral. Children could’ve been involved.”

Tuesday’s shooting at Rhodes Funeral Services in Gresham — which had the largest number of shooting victims in Chicago in recent memory — also had a police tactical team standing by prior to the shooting, but that did little to discourage the violence.

Police said a Chevy Malibu pulled up outside about 6:30 p.m. and gunman inside let off 60 rounds. Ten of the victims were women.

When Andrea Brookins learned of the shooting, she said it “seemed like something from the wild west.”

Brookins, funeral director of Brookins Funeral Home in the Brainerd, said they already have stringent security measures and wouldn’t alter its practices.

“We’ve been on high alert — period,” she said. “Safety’s been of the utmost importance.”

Brookins rarely holds services in the evening.

“It’s just a scary time. There is no safe time” of day to hold services, she said.

Childs, Brookins and a funeral director at Taylor Funeral Home in Chatham each said they’ve never denied service to a family due to the possibility of retaliatory violence during services.

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JULY 21: Police investigate the scene of a shooting in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood on July 21, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The chance of shootings at gang funerals has drawn the attention of Chicago police for years.

In late 2012, a man was shot to death and another man was critically wounded in a shooting outside St. Columbanus Catholic Church, across the street from A.A. Rayner & Sons Funeral Home in the 300 block of East 71st.

In 2004, a procession for a slain Latin Kings member stopped to let someone shoot a rival gang member on the street, police said at the time.

“It used to be that safe places were churches and funeral homes — those were safe havens,” Brookins said. “Those were places off limits … I think we have to hold on to our faith, our foundation. We can’t live in a state of fear. I believe this is a ministry. This is not for the weak at heart. I have to keep this forefront: To truly trust that He hasn’t given us the spirit of fear.”

“My heart bleeds,” she said. “There is no safe place right now.”