CHICAGO - Elishama Wright was leaving her nephew’s surprise birthday party, joking and laughing with her brother as they stepped into the cool weekend night in West Pullman.
Wright thought she heard firecrackers in the distance as she walked with her brother, her 15-year-old daughter tagging along somewhere in the crowd.
The sounds grew louder and people started running and screaming. "When I looked down, I saw my brother on the ground with blood squirting from his face," Wright told the Sun-Times.
She ducked back into the building in 300 block of East Kensington Avenue until the shooting stopped, then rushed outside to see about her brother and daughter.
Wright reached her brother, a Chicago firefighter, and felt for a pulse. It was faint. As she dialed 911, her daughter ran up, bleeding and crying.
"My daughter was yelling ‘Mom.’ She had a lot of blood running down her arm. She said, ‘Mom, I’m tired of shootings,’ and collapsed."
Chicago firefighter Timothy Eiland and her 15-year-old niece Divine O’Neal were among six people wounded in a shooting Saturday evening in West Pullman on the Far South Side. | Provided by family
Four other people were hit by gunfire and one of them, a mother from Dolton, was shot and killed near Wright’s daughter. "My daughter watched her die," Wright said.
The attack Saturday night was the latest mass shooting in a year when the city is seeing its worst gun violence in decades, and in a neighborhood that is near the top for both murders and shootings, according to police data.
Police say the gunmen emerged from a dark gangway and opened fire around 9:30 p.m. and ran off.
Schenia Smith, 42, the mother from Dolton, was hit in the arm and armpit and taken to the University of Chicago Medical Center where she was pronounced dead, police said.
Wright’s brother, Timothy Eiland, the father of five, was shot in the face and taken to the University of Chicago Medical Center in critical condition. Her 15-year-old daughter, Divine O’Neal, went to Comer Children’s Hospital in fair condition with a gunshot wound to the arm.
Three other men were wounded: A 38-year-old hit in the stomach, a 31-year-old grazed in the head, and a 22-year-old shot in the arm and leg. All of them were listed in fair condition.
Wright said her daughter has been released from the hospital and there are hopeful signs that her brother will recover. He responds to his name and can move his fingers.
"Just keep praying," said Wright, who works in payroll for the Chicago Police Department.
Wright said her brother is "an awesome fireman, an awesome husband, an awesome friend" and is known for his sense of humor. His father was a firefighter too.
"He was always joking around," she said. "That’s what he was doing when we were out there."
Wright said her daughter remains in a lot of pain, but it is doing the best she can. "It’s hard to see a hole in your child’s arm, with blood running down, and seeing your brother on the ground," she said.
Violence in West Pullman
The shooting occurred in one of the deadliest neighborhoods in Chicago, targeted for special efforts by Mayor Lori Lightfoot because of the prevalence of gun violence.
Murders are up about 40% from this time a year ago in the police district that covers West Pullman, rising from three to five. Shootings are up about 35%, from 141 to 189. Other crime has also spiked: Sexual assaults are up 38%, aggravated battery up 11%.
During the same time, murders are up 3.6% across the city, from 535 last year to 554 this year. Shootings are up 9.5%, from 2,909 last year to 3,185 this year. Compared to this time in 2019, shootings are up nearly 68%.
A year ago, Lightfoot released a violence prevention plan that proposed flooding West Pullman and 14 other community areas with resources — not just violence intervention programs but help with jobs and housing and health.
The neighborhoods were targeted because they have accounted for 50% of the violence in Chicago over the last three years.
Yet West Pullman and six of the other areas have recorded more shootings since last year, according to Sun-Times data. The others are Great Grand Crossing, South Shore, East Garfield Park, Roseland, Englewood and Chicago Lawn.
Only one of the targeted areas — Austin — has seen fewer shootings though homicides are about the same as last year and it remains one of the deadliest neighborhoods in Chicago.
A Sun-Times analysis in July found that the Lightfoot administration had yet to funnel any extra assistance to some of these dangerous neighborhoods, particularly on the Far South Side.
The West Pullman community area had received none of the $36 million released so far by City Hall under the plan this year.
In the next few weeks, City Hall will announce how much of $1.8 billion in federal stimulus aid should go to West Pullman and the other neighborhoods it has targeted under the plan.