Members of Friendship Baptist Church, 5200 Jackson Blvd., are grieving the loss of one of their own. Emanuel Flemming, 32, was an usher at the church. While Flemming was entering the house of worship last Sunday with his children, a group of men approached them and started shooting. Michael Swift, 46, was simply visiting the church when he found himself in the line of fire.
Both men were taken to Stroger and Mt. Sinai hospitals, respectively, where they were pronounced dead shortly after the shooting. Chicago Police Department Detective Division Commander Kevin Duffin said that the shooters were most likely targeting Flemming.
During a Monday morning press conference, Austin faith leaders, community activists and elected officials joined Friendship Baptist Church pastor Rev. Reginald Bachus on the steps where the men were gunned down a day before and strongly denounced the violence.
After the conference, community leaders met in private to discuss strategies for dealing with the fallout of the shootings. And later that day, there was a prayer walk through the area where the shootings took place.
During the press conference, Duffin said that the shooting was “one of the more reprehensible scenes I’ve seen in my 35 years on the force.” The commander said that the shooting may have happened after a personal dispute between Flemming and his alleged assailants.
“When the cycle of violence [comes to] our church, we’re in trouble,” said 15th District Commander Dwayne Betts. “We’ve come too far to turn back now. We need to stay the course.”
The dismay and puzzlement over the shooting was echoed by Bachus, who said that churches should “be sanctuaries from violence.”
Deputy Mayor Andrea Zopp, who attended the conference on behalf of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, also didn’t mince words when it came to expressing her outrage at the shootings.
“On behalf of the Mayor Emanuel, I’m here to express our condolences and stand with the Friendship Baptist church,” she said. “[What happened on Sunday] is a violation. It is an office, and it’s time for us to hold together.
Zopp promised that the shooters will be held accountable. But at the same time, she said, while punishing the perpetrators is important so is addressing the root causes of the violence.
“We got to support investment in our neighborhoods,” she said. “We’ve got to support our young people. We all come together to fight this violence, to fight for our communities and neighborhoods. The mayor is behind you and I’m behind you.”
Andre Williams, an outreach worker at the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago, said that his organization was doing its part to mitigate the violence.
“The whole team is on top of it,” he said. “We are going to talk to people and see what it was that [Flemming] did so bad they got him in the church.”