Father Michael Pfleger at Greater St. John Bible Church in Austin on July 21. (Photo credit: AustinTalks)

West Side faith leaders and elected officials are expressing growing alarm in the wake of a mass shooting on July 17 in Austin that left six people, most of them teenagers injured. 

The shooting happened in the afternoon, on the 500 block of West Ohio, police said. The victims were at a party in the area when an SUV drove up and people in the vehicle started shooting. 

Four girls, ages 12, 13, 14 and 15, were either shot or grazed. A 19-year-old woman and a 25-year-old man were also injured. All of the victims’ injuries were non-life threatening, authorities said. 

Rev. Ira Acree, the pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church, 1256 N. Waller Ave. in Austin, said that he was out of town attending the funeral of a relative when the shooting happened.  

“My first cousin’s son lost his life by way of gun violence,” Acree said during a Bible study service held at his church on July 21, in which Father Michael Pfleger of Saint Sabina Church on the South Side was the guest speaker. 

“Before I could get back in town, one of the local news stations was calling me asking for my thoughts about the mass shooting that took place in Austin and I’m saying, ‘What mass shooting,’” Acree said. 

Acree said Pfleger had bee scheduled to speak at his church before the July 17 shooting happened, but the shooting forced Pfleger to switch sermon themes. 

During his sermon, Pfleger urged city officials and community members to create a public awareness campaign around gun violence similar to the public awareness campaigns around COVID-19. 

“Why don’t we have a campaign where we come together in Chicago and every time you turn around [we’re urging young men to stop the genocide]?” Pfleger said. 

Acree said the Leaders Network, the faith-based social justice organization that he co-chairs, is sponsoring a first responders’ training event on Aug. 1, 2 p.m., in the basement of his Austin church to train people in the methods of responding to violence. 

And Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) announced that she has partnered with Congressman Danny K. Davis (7th) and 15th District Community Policing Director Glen Brooks to host a “Keep Peace in the Streets Prayer March” on July 24. The March will kick off at 10 a.m. on the 4900 block of West Chicago Avenue. 

“Guns and shootings cannot continue to claim our children, devastate our families and negatively impact communities,” Mitts said. “That’s whey w’ere calling all equally concerned local residents and stakeholders to join us on Saturday.” 

For more information on the march, contact the 37th Ward office at (773) 379-0960 or the 15th District CAPS office at (312) 743-2965. 

For more information on the Leaders Network first responders’ training, call (773) 373-9107.