After toddler's death, reps want nat'l guard help on crime

April 25, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Reps. John Fritchey and LaShawn Ford said that troops can help win residents' hearts and minds, as troops have in Iraq and Afghanistan. The two have admitted their request is drastic, but they described it as necessary.

Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis disagreed, and said the National Guard does not offer the kind of help needed.

The legislators said it is obvious to them that law enforcement needs help to combat the urban unrest caused by the problems of gang and gun violence.

The debate is happening as the father of the latest victim, 20-month old Cynia Cole, shares his family's grief.

Jerome Hendricks clung to his youngest child in church Sunday at the first service he has attended since Cole's death.

His daughter died after being shot in the head while sitting in Hendricks' car late Wednesday night.

Police said the shot was intended for Hendricks, and that Cole died because of Hendricks' gang membership.

The 25-year-old Hendricks denied that he is in a gang.

"I just feel like that they're trying to say anything - bad-mouth me," said Hendricks. "I'm already feeling bad that I have to accept the loss."

Hendricks' neighborhood friend and alleged gang member Danzeal Finley, 21, was charged with the girl's murder.

Anti-violence groups and Fritchey called for the National Guard to be deployed in Chicago as soon as possible to help police get guns and criminals off the streets.

The lawmaker says the request is not a criticism of law enforcement but a way to save innocent lives.

"We have more than enough National Guard members living in Chicago today to meet the need that we would have," said Fritchey.

Supt. Weis balked at the idea of allowing a military takeover of sorts, even if Guard members were to staff his summer-long strategic response team targeting gang and drug hot spots.

Weis said common-sense gun legislation would help stop the most violent crimes, which happen on just 9 percent of city blocks.

"The military does not adhere to certain amendments in the U.S. constitution that we do," said Weis.

In the meantime, Cynia Cole's aunt Betty Cole mourns her loss as she prays something will stop the gun violence that claimed her niece from claiming anyone else.

"I can't change what happened," said Cole. "I can pray for his family and my family, because [Cynia] was very special to us," said Cole.

According to Fritchey, 113 people have been killed across Chicago so far this year, the same number of U.S. troops killed in both Iraq and Afghanistan during the same period of time.

The Chicago Police Department would not confirm that number, but acknowledges a need for the violence to end.

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