Gang-related funeral draws police presence

December 13, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Police are stepping up security at some services after a recent spike in violence at gang funerals in the city.

The story is tragically familiar. A gunman in a car sprays bullets. A man and woman are hit. The woman dies. The man, David Freeman, a reputed gang member, survives.

That was 12 days ago.

Thursday was the funeral for Shemara Fitzpatrick, age 23, and said by relatives to be pregnant. Friends and family members were there, and so too were police.

"Our concern with the funeral is because of the gang motivation behind it and the relationship the victim had with the intended target, that there could be some retaliation," said Commander Barbara West.

It is that concern, heightened of late, that has prompted police to maintain a presence at funerals where there's believed to be a link to gangs. It was not hard for police to establish a presence at this funeral, as the 15th district station house is right across the street from the funeral home, but there's something more.

David Freeman, the presumed target of the December first drive by shooting, released from prison on parole just four months ago, did not attend the funeral because Wednesday he was arrested again.

Police say that based on some intelligence they developed, they conducted an "emergency parolee check," went to David Freeman's home and found, they say, that he had a gun.

And that's a big problem for someone on parole, but the Freeman arrest, police believe, greatly lessoned the possibility of problems on Thursday. Still, policing a funeral from a discreet distance for privacy and yet making presence known for public safety presents a fine line.

"Certainly it can raise a few eyebrows, but when something happens, people will say, 'Where are they?' said 29th Ward Alderman Deborah Graham.

The funeral concluded. People left. And David Freeman, who has a tattoo that reads, "Death is easy, life is hard," is headed back to prison on a parole violation.

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