Chicago violence: 7 children killed in shootings in last 2 weeks, police say

Chicago murders, shootings rose sharply in June 2020, police say

ByEvelyn Holmes, Craig Wall, Eric Horng, and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Thursday, July 2, 2020
Vigil held for toddler shot and killed in Chicago
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Balloons and doves were released at a vigil for 20-month-old Sincere Gaston, who was killed over the weekend while riding in a car with his mom.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Seven children under the age of 18 have been killed in shootings in Chicago in the last two weeks as police prepare for a historically violent holiday weekend.

RELATED: 63 shot, 16 fatally, in Chicago weekend shootings

Balloons and doves were released as the community came together Wednesday for a vigil for 20-month-old Sincere Gaston. The toddler was killed over the weekend while riding in a car with his mom.

"I am lifeless," said Yasmine Miller, the boy's mother. "That was my world. They came and took a piece of us. Broke us. He stole my baby from me."

Gaston was killed by a stray bullet after someone opened fire on June 27 as he and his mother drove home from a laundromat. The baby boy's grandmother says his death comes almost six years to the day she lost one of her sons to gun violence.

"To have to do this again and watch my baby walk in the shoes I had to walk in," said Eve Binion, the child's grandmother. "Wake up every day and push yourself to keep moving. Enough is enough."

But amid the grief and the calls for those responsible to turn themselves in, there is anger as Sincere's father criticized investigators for claiming he was the intended target of the violence.

"I don't live no life of crime. I'm done with that, I've been done with that," said Thomas Gaston, the child's father. "Everybody judging me, treating me wrong."

The 27-year-old, who admitted to at one time being "in the life," has been a member of Chicago CRED, an anti-violence organization for the last two years.

Last weekend, 10-year-old Lena Nunez was shot and killed while visiting her uncle's home in Logan Square Saturday night.

Also on Saturday, a 17-year-old boy was killed in the Humboldt Park neighborhood after he got into a fight with someone in a large crowd, according to police.

Four children were among 11 killed in Chicago shootings the previous weekend, police said.

WATCH: Chicago shootings, murders spike in June 2020

Chicago saw a sharp rise in murders and shooting last month, raising more concerns about what could be ahead for the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

After a deadly June, Chicago is now on pace for over 750 murders in 2020.

"The status quo obviously is not working," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. "I don't want to wake up again and hear more news of another child who lost their life to gun violence."

Through the end of June, murders in Chicago were up 34% from this point a year ago. Shootings have increased by 45%.

"I need the moms on the block, I need the block club presidents, I need the members of the faith community, I need the people who are doing street intervention and I need families, I need families to do their part as well," Lightfoot implored.

"When you look at this situation, we're in the middle of a pandemic," said Ald. Sophia King, 4th Ward. "But there's a larger pandemic. It's racism, basically."

Members of the Black Legislative Caucus said Wednesday that more needs to be done to stop the flow of illegal guns, and to get to the root of the problem that leads to violence.

"We need to revitalize our communities and create hope so that our young people have a future, said State Rep. Sonya Harper, D-Chicago, 6th District.

Despite the rise in shootings and murders, Chicago police report June arrests dropped 55% from a year ago and street stops were down by 74%.

The mayor said much of that could be the result of police directing so much of their attention to the numerous protests stemming from the death of George Floyd.

She pleaded for the public's help in turning in those behind the shootings.

"But for those who do commit violence, but those who don't really value the sanctity of life, they should have no shelter anywhere," Lightfoot said.

Members of the Black Legislative Caucus reiterated the need for people to turn in those responsible for violence, but added there needs to be investments in protecting witnesses so people can feel safe when they come forward.

WATCH: West Side church holds anti-violence forum days before 13-year-old's funeral

With Chicago Police deploying more officers this holiday weekend, there is a call for community members to also hit the streets and reclaim their blocks.

"I'm not anti-police," said Tio Hardiman, with Violence Interrupters. "I want to make that clear. My thing is the police have not been trained to stop killings on the front end."

"We've got to get our interveners out there working," said Ald. Chris Taliaferro, 29th Ward. "We've got to get our interrupters out there working and talk to these folks that are pulling the trigger."

An anti-violence forum was streamed online Wednesday night from Greater St. John Bible Church, where a funeral will be held for 13-year-old Amaria Jones on Friday. She was inside her Austin neighborhood home when she was struck by a stray bullet on June 20, police said.

"When there's no accountability and no one is arrested, it creates this situation where people feel like they have to take matters into their own hands," said David Cherry, of The Leaders Network.

Some called for a witness protection program to encourage people to speak up.

"We're not trying to break necessarily a code of silence," Pastor Ira Acree said. "We have the responsibility and the awesome task of breaking a culture of fear."

The members of that panel said there is no solution to the violence without solutions to the problems of poverty and community disinvestment.