Proposed task force aims to curb shootings at funerals

Funeral services are supposed to be sacred. But it seems nothing will prevent gangs from opening fire on one another.

Now, the Cook County sheriff is trying to stop violence from erupting in the middle of cemeteries.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart convened a meeting Thursday of political, religious and funeral industry leaders to talk about the growing violence surrounding the funerals and processions of Chicago gang members.

"These funeral processions have gone through our communities where people have been hanging out of cars. There have been shots fired,” said Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin.

Just last December, Hillside police were called after shots were fired during a funeral procession headed to Oak Ridge Cemetery.
"We were able to identify the car, and we started following the car after it left the cemetery so it wouldn't create any more problems there,” said Hillside Police Chief Joseph Lukaszek.

Lukaszek rammed his squad car into the vehicle carrying the suspects before they could get on the expressway. Police wrestled several of the occupants to the ground and found three carrying guns. 

"It's getting out of control, it really is. The gangs just think that it's a safe haven for them and they do whatever they want to do,” Lukaszek said.

Dart is proposing a task force made up of political, religious and funeral industry leaders to come up with ideas to curb violence at gang funerals.

Funeral director John McCall says he's increasingly worried about the safety of his employees.

"It is dramatic for the families and very dramatic even for the funeral directors, the violence that's going on and all the things that's happening. Guns and knives,” McCall said.

"This has been something that has been escalating I'd say over the last ten to 15 years from where it was not much of a problem. It was very isolated. To now it occurs more frequently,” Dart said.

The sheriff says he doesn't want this to drag out. He hopes to have some ideas, some proposals they can put into action as early as May.

Sheriff dart says at least one cemetery has begun hiring off-duty police officers when a gang member is going to be buried.