PROPAGANDA: Police can offer few assurances as violence racks Chicago

Police can offer few assurances as violence racks Chicago

By CARLA K. JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer

Wed Apr 30, 7:58 PM ET

Police find three people fatally shot in a suspected drug house. Five bodies are discovered in another ransacked home. A man shoots up a plumbing supply store with an AK-47.

Dozens of people have been killed or wounded in a rash of shootings plaguing Chicago in recent weeks, and the only reassurance police can give jittery residents is that the latest victims were not chosen at random.

Police have stepped up patrols, put SWAT officers and specialized units on the street, and announced plans to equip and train the department’s 13,500 officers with combat rifles. Mayor Richard Daley, Police Superintendent Jody Weis and civic leaders met late last week to discuss the uptick in violence.

None of that fazed whoever entered a two-story brick home on a tree-lined street on the city’s southwest side and shot three adults to death.

Police doing a well-being check at the home early Wednesday discovered two men and a woman fatally shot. A money-counting machine near the bodies suggested drug activity and a targeted crime, police said. Autopsies were planned.

"This is a gang block. It’s a war zone; it’s not surprising at all," said 18-year-old hairstylist Kalina Ortiz, who lives a few blocks from the house where the bodies were found. She complained that police don’t respond quickly to calls.

Investigators planned to review 911 calls from the neighborhood, said police spokeswoman Monique Bond. "There may have been some shots fired earlier in the morning," she said.

Yellow tape and a TV news helicopter overhead brought out clusters of neighbors, who sat on porches or stood on the sidewalk watching the activity. A Catholic priest walked over from his church when he heard.

"Unfortunately, we have some gang activity," said the Rev. Marco Mercado of Good Shepherd Catholic Church, two blocks from the crime scene. "But this is unusual, even for this area."

Police Cmdr. Roberto Zavala said that police would make sure school officials in the mostly Hispanic neighborhood know the shootings were a "targeted act of violence" and that there appeared to be no forced entry into the home, which was left ransacked, the back door ajar.

Police believe the deaths are unrelated to other recent crimes, including a shootout at a South Side plumbing business on April 18. A 39-year-old Chicago man was charged with murder and attempted murder after police say he used an AK-47 assault rifle to kill a man there, then fired the weapon at police officers. The officers were unhurt.

That crime was part of a particularly bloody weekend in which nine people were killed in 36 shootings. Shortly afterward, the five people were found dead in a pillaged home on the South Side.

Police officials at that time blamed the first spring-like weekend for the rise in violence and wouldn’t comment on a theory floated by some community leaders that a crackdown that put many of the city’s gang leaders behind bars has led to turf fights among rank-and-file members.

Chicago had 87 homicides during the first three months of this year, compared with 88 during the same period in 2007, but official numbers for April are not yet available.

Leticia Estrada, who was dropping off her child at a day-care center near where the bodies were found Wednesday, said gangs are a problem in the neighborhood.

The 31-year-old waitress said people are afraid to talk openly about the gang activity because they fear the gang-bangers. But she said she thinks that will change because people are fed up.

"We have to do something," Estrada said.

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