On Wednesday, West Side clergymen and community activists convened a press conference on the corner of North Avenue and Massasoit demanding greater police accountability in the wake of a drive-by shooting that occurred in broad daylight and left two men dead.
The fatal shooting happened last Sunday at approximately 3:30 p.m., near the corner of North Avenue and Massasoit. Andre Chapman, 23, and his good friend Carey Hollis, 28, were in a car headed eastbound on the 5800 block of West North Avenue when another car drove up beside them and began firing.
Wounded, one of the men drove the car about a block from where the shooting occurred before it crashed into a pole. They were both pronounced dead at the scene at approximately 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
Those gathered at the press conference said the two men were killed by semiautomatic weapons. Chatman’s mother, who spoke briefly on Wednesday, said that her son knew he was a wanted man.
While reading a poem in front of several news cameras, Patricia Chatman described her son as a man who lived on the edge and who may have feared for his life before he was gunned down.
“So this is what you wanted,” Chatman read. “I think it was all so pointless. To live your life in fear and have us crying, because you’re not here. To live your life so reckless [sic], now I gotta live with this necklace that won’t let me breathe cuz you were my only seed. Now hear we are today, weeping because you passed away. My life will never be the same without you in my lane.”
Chatman said her son, who died about a month before his birthday on April 17, was “respectable, but he loved his bro’s.”
“Andre went to Brunson Elementary on Augusta and Central,” she said, recalling the boy who was athletically inclined enough to try multiple sports, including basketball, football and track. She said she moved with her son to Mayfield and Augusta when he was six years old. It’s the same block where Hollis lived and where a sense of community was forged by generations of Austin residents.
That sense of community took a tragically ironic turn Sunday. One of the responding officers had, like Hollis and Chatman, grown up on Mayfield. After identifying Hollis, the ofificer called one of Chatman’s friends with the news.
Chatman said her final, lasting interaction with her son and Hollis was during a game of cards the three played the night before the shooting.
“We were feeling good about that,” Chatman said. The next day, she looked out the window and saw Carey leaned against the compact blue car he drove. She went out to give him five and to lollygag, she said. A few minutes later, her son hopped into the vehicle and the two drove off.
“An incident happened that night and I wanted to get in contact with a friend and realized Dre left with my phone,” Chatman recalled. “So, I said let me call him so he can give me my phone.”
Chatman said that she called her son with friends’ phones, but got no return. She texted the phone. Still nothing. She called Hollis’s phone, but he wasn’t answering either.
“I started to worry,” she said. “By now its 5 p.m. A few minutes later, one of the officers on the scene who grew up on our block on Mayfield called a friend of mine and said, ‘It’s Carey.’ And I said, ‘Well, my son was with him, so where is he at?’ And they said, ‘Somewhere on North Avenue.'”
Semiautomatic weapons and ‘self-hatred’
“We’re asking, not demanding, that Supt. [Gary] McCarthy inform us as to his plans to reassure us that these assault weapons are getting off the streets,” said Maurice J. Robinson, the director of community relations for the LEADERS network, an alliance of community activists and clergymen on the West Side.
“I spoke at Banner High School on a Monday and I overheard one of the kids [say], ‘Bro, if I make it this weekend, I will see you next week.’ That is how our kids think nowadays,” said Robinson.
In 2012, the Chicago Police Department instituted a gun turn-in program. That year, turn-in events were held at various faith-based organizations across the city, “where a person could turn in a weapon, no questions asked, and receive a gift card,” according to the Chicago Inspector General’s 2013 audit of the program.
The OIG’s audit discovered that up to 6.52 percent of the firearms that were turned over in exchange for $100 gift cards were, in fact, replicas that should only have earned $10 gift cards. The audit revealed that the misclassifications could have cost the city nearly $5,000 in overpayments.
Roman Morrow, a West Side political operative who was at Wednesday’s event, advocated that the department try the program again.
“We need to re-implement the gun turn-in programs that had been scrapped and we need to find out why they’ve been scrapped,” Morrow said.
A March 2013 report by Governing Magazine noted that previous studies on gun buyback programs seemed to suggest that the programs don’t work.
“Studies in Seattle and Sacramento in 1994 and 1998 suggested that the type of people selling their firearms — relatively few young men, for instance — didn’t resemble the general gun-owning population and weren’t likely to commit gun crimes,” Governing reported.
“In Seattle, there appeared to be no statistically significant change in gun-related homicides after its gun buyback. A 2002 study in Milwaukee found that handguns sold back to local police didn’t fit the profile of handguns used in homicides,” according to the publication.
But the Governing article also noted that, in light of mass shooting deaths in places such as Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut, experts may need to reconsider the buyback programs as a means of mitigating the harm caused by an estimated 300 million firearms circulating throughout the United States.
“In the past, police would often accept any gun, even ones that no longer worked. Now many local programs tailor the rules to attract targeted guns,” the article states. “For example, a December buyback in Camden County, N.J., paid residents on a sliding scale from $50 for a gun that couldn’t fire to $250 for a high-powered weapon. Police set a state buyback record, collecting 1,137 guns, including five automatic assault weapons.”
Chicago police often tout their record of removing illegal weapons from the streets. Last November, Supt. McCarthy announced that his department recovered more than 6,252 illegal guns to date in 2014. And Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced his support of buyback programs to complement the police’s confiscation efforts.
But for Tio Hardiman, the former executive director of CeaseFire and founder of Violence Interrupters, the violence goes deeper than semiautomatic weapons.
“A lot of the killings are not always drug-related or gang-related. Some of the killings are interpersonal conflict and we have to have the abilities and the skill sets to work things out with these young men,” said Hardiman, whose organization works in neighborhoods in Austin.
“More than we have a gang problem in the African American community, we have a self-hatred problem,” Hardiman said. “If we don’t address the self-hatred, we’re going to continue to shoot and kill one another.”
In the meantime, though, Hardiman said that there needs to be a focus on preventing acts of retaliation, which are almost inevitable in the wake of these kinds of murders.
“You have to get out here and work hard and beat the streets and see what you can do to prevent the next act of violence, because there’s definitely probably going to be some retaliation,” he said.
“It’s tragic,” said Rev. Ira Acree of the shooting deaths that occurred in broad daylight. Acree, the pastor of the Greater St. John Bible Church and co-chairman of the LEADERS Network, suggested that Sunday’s shooting could be ominous.
“If it’s this tragic at this point, it’s going to be a long, hot summer guys.”