Four men have been arrested and charged in last week's mass shooting in a South Side Chicago park that wounded 12 adults and a 3-year-old boy, officials said Tuesday.
Police said the motive for the mass shooting appears to be retaliation for a shooting hours earlier that grazed one of alleged gunmen, police said.
Byron Champ, 21, and Tabari Young, 22, are accused of firing into the crowd as Brad Jett, 22, allegedly played lookout. Police said Kewane Gatewood, 20, is believed to have supplied the gun Young used, which McCarthy described as "military-grade." The four are charged with attempted murder and battery with a firearm.
"The motivation for this incident was an unreported shooting, where this individual, [Bryon] Champ, suffered a graze wound earlier last Thursday," Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said at a televised news conference Tuesday. "As a result, the retaliation took place at Cornell Park."
Police said the men fired into the park indiscriminately because they thought it was controlled by another gang.
McCarthy singled out Champ because he has prior convictions and was still on the street. In July 2012 Champ was convicted for being a felon unlawfully in possession of a weapon, a charge that put him in "boot camp."
"If Bryon Champ is not on the street, as he shouldn’t have been, this incident likely does not occur," McCarthy said, adding that felony-in-possession-of-a-weapon is "a crime that's designed to put dangerous criminals in jail, and he received boot camp as his punishment."
McCarthy added, "A little more than a year later, he’s the main player in a shooting of 13 people in one of our neighborhoods.”
The shooting was somewhat reminiscent of a May shooting in New Orleans in which a pair of brothers were accused of shooting into a parade gathering and wounding 19 people. One of the suspects, Akein Scott, 19, was out on a $15,000 bond for a drug and weapons charge lodged against him two months earlier; officials criticized the low bond amount.
In Chicago, McCarthy, too, got political.
“This state needs tougher penalties that hold dangerous criminals accountable for carrying illegal firearms," McCarthy told reporters. "Illegal guns drive violence, illegal guns drive murder, and if we don’t provide real punishment for the criminals who carry them, what message is it that we’re sending? Where are the priorities of the criminal justice system?”
That cry was echoed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who called for a "three-year minimum penalty for illegally carrying a gun on our streets."
"As we invest heavily in programs for youth, in new policing strategies, and in building supports for those most likely to fall into gangs, we also need a three-year mandatory minimum bill for gun crimes," Emanuel said in a statement.
According to the Chicago Tribune, 3-year-old Deonta Howard is recovering from the bullet that entered his ear and exited his cheek, and his mother was with him in the hospital when news of the four men's arrests broke.
"I'm really happy, I've been praying for this. I want to go see them face to face and talk to these people," Shamarah Leggett, 24, told the Tribune. "They shouldn't even be able to get a bond. I think it's crazy. Man, they just need to stop the violence. It's beyond out of control."
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