Brighton Park residents hold vigil due to growing violence

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Residents held a vigil Thursday over concerns of growing violence in the neighborhood. But one store owner said his business is not to blame for the growing crime and violence.

Marco Aranda's store is right across the street of an elementary school. It was also the site of a deathly gang shooting last week. At the urging of the alderman, the city shut down the store for code violations this week.

Aranda stood with community members to mourn the loss of an innocent disabled man shot and killed in gang cross fire in front of the store. He wants his business reopened. Mercado 43 was shut down by the city after Alderman Ray Lopez complained of constant gang activity outside the store.

"I'm here to tell the neighborhood I have no gang affiliation there has been no drug activity inside my store," Aranda, the store owner, said.

"To be clear, we have not said he is a gang member or anything like that, but he has given them refuge, he has allowed them to go inside his store, to hang out in front of his store," Ald. Lopez, said.

Lopez said since September, police have been called at least 14 times for gang disturbances in front of Mercado 43 and an adjoining taqueria.

Last Friday, two cars pulled up and unloaded more than 30 rounds, killing two people and injuring 2 more.

"Believe me, I'm scared too," Aranda said.

Aranda may be scared, but Lopez said the owner has done nothing to address the gang issues in front of his store. Aranda said there is so much he can do as a small business owner.

I have all types of customers, Hispanic, white, black I don't discriminate who comes in my store," Aranda said.

Since Mercado 43 and Taqueria La Cantera were shut down for code violations Lopez said he has received death threats from gang members on social media.

"That just highlights the severity of the issues in the neighborhood, these threats to me are recent, but these are the kind of threats that my neighborhoods deal with every day.

Lopez and Aranda were both at the vigil on Thursday. They spoke for the first time on the phone and agreed to work together to figure something out to reduce the violence in the neighborhood.
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