18 murders in 24 hours: The most violent day in Chicago in six decades

Sunday, May 31, was a tragic day for Chicago.

Eighteen people were killed while the city was roiled by another day of protests and chaotic looting, following George Floyd’s murder

These shocking numbers made May 31, 2020, the single most violent day in Chicago in six decades, according to the University of Chicago Crime Lab. As Chicago Sun-Times reports, the lab’s data doesn’t go back further than 1961.

Image credits: Chicago Sun-Times

Max Kapustin, the senior research director at the University of Chicago Crime Lab, said:

“We’ve never seen anything like it, at all… I don’t even know how to put it into context. It’s beyond anything that we’ve ever seen before.”

A hardworking father was killed just before 1 a.m.

Two hours later, a West Side high school student was murdered.

During a South Side looting at a cellphone store, a man was killed at 12:30 p.m.

A college freshman who hoped to become a correctional officer, gunned down at 4:25 p.m. after getting into an argument in Englewood.

From May 29, 7 p.m., through May 31, 11 p.m., 25 people were murdered in Chicago.

Furthermore, 85 residents were wounded by gunfire, according to data maintained by the Chicago Sun-Times. This was the most violent weekend in Chicago’s modern history.

As per the crime lab, the next highest murder total for a single day in Chicago was on August 4, 1991, when 13 people were killed.

According to Rev. Michael Pfleger, last weekend was an ‘open season’ in his neighborhood and others on the South and West sides. The longtime crusader against gun violence who leads St. Sabina Church in Auburn Gresham, said:

“On Saturday and particularly Sunday, I heard people saying all over, ‘Hey, there’s no police anywhere, police ain’t doing nothing.’ I sat and watched a store looted for over an hour. No police came. I got in my car and drove around to some other places getting looted [and] didn’t see police anywhere.”

Last Sunday, May 31, Chicago’s 911 emergency center received 65,000 calls for all types of service, as Mayor Lori Lightfoot reveals.

This was 50,000 more than on a usual day.

Mr. Pfleger believes that systematic problems such as joblessness, food insecurity, and homelessness were already escalating due to the coronavirus pandemic. Looting is only making ‘a bad situation worse’. He notes that the current unrest reminds him of the rioting that broke out when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Rev. Michael Pfleger adds:

“It’s like a time bomb out here. People are on the edge, people are angry, people are poor, and they don’t even know when it’s going to change.”

In Chicago, most homicide victims are young, black men. Many of the suspects have the same profile. However, murders have significantly fallen in recent years. Police-involved shootings have also declined. For instance, in 2016, there were 764 murders and 12 fatal police-involved shootings, compared with 492 murders and three fatal police-involved shootings in 2019.

Chicago Police spokesman Thomas Ahern said in a statement:

“The level of activity experienced over the last week has been unprecedented and the Department is actively investigating multiple incidents across the city and working to determine the motives in these cases. … The Department is actively working to seek justice for all the residents impacted, especially those who have been killed or injured by these senseless acts of violence.”

After the ‘increased violent and criminal activity’ on May 30, police canceled days off for all officers and placed them on 12-hour shifts to direct their ‘full force of manpower towards Chicago’s neighborhoods, particularly on the South and West Sides’, Ahern reports.

Six people were killed on Saturday, May 30. 

The shocking death toll includes Gregory Lewis, a 21-year-old man killed early in the morning while riding in a vehicle in the 500th block of East 115th Street. Mr. Lewis’ former dean at Excel Academy of Roseland, Mustafa Abdullah, shares that Gregory had a ‘positive influence’ and he was even serving as the vice president for the school’s student government. The 21-year old even helped his dean acclimate to life in Chicago as he was still adjusting after moving from Philadelphia.

“We would sit and talk in my office for hours just about life. So just kind of schooling me on the ins and outs of Chicago, the do’s and don’ts. Just kind of what the young people are going through today as far as neighborhood situations or whatever the case may be.”

A young girl was shot after her graduation party.

Teyonna Lofton, an 18-year-old girl, recently finished her senior year at Perspectives Leadership Academy. To celebrate the occasion, her family was holding a socially distanced graduation parade. While she waited in line outside the gas station at the corner of 81st and Racine, an SUV pulled up and someone inside opened fire into the crowd. Teyonna was one of the three people injured in the encounter.

Image credits: James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Lofton was struck near her elbow. She repeatedly tried to reach 911 for help but no one responded.

“When I needed help, to call the police and stuff, nobody responded. Nobody answered.”

Luckily, her mother came from home to get her to the nearest hospital. But on the way, Teyonna saw the ‘madness’ that was unfolding outside the Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park.

“It was just people jumping out their cars into stores and stealing and looting … Police was letting them do whatever they wanted.”

According to Mr. Kapustin of Chicago Crime Lab, such a massive disruption caused by protesters typically requires a response from the police departments.

A father was killed while visiting his family. 

On May 31, someone fired shots from a passing car near Englewood’s 6800th block of South Laflin and shot Angelo Bronson, a 36-year-old father of two. At the time, Mr. Bronson had come home from work for the weekend to visit his family, which he did frequently.

Image credits: Forevermissed.com

Ali Evans, a longtime friend of Angelo, shares:

“Just about the last person I could have thought this would happen to was Angelo. The man was so calm and quick to laugh, too. I just can’t believe we’re talking about him in the past tense.”

Another devoted father-of-three was gunned down by looters.

While walking into a Metro PCS at 8100 S. Halsted St. to pay his bill, as his family said, John Tiggs, 32, was shot amid widespread looting on the South Side. The 32-year-old man was struck in the abdomen and died.

Image credits: Chicago Sun-Times

A young boy was also injured in the encounter. Police reported two suspects initially taken into custody have been released without charges.

Mr. Tiggs’ aunt, Marie Marsham, said:

“John had a big heart. He was there for us, and [his death] has taken so much from us. When you needed something done, he was the first to be there to help you out.”

Two students were among the victims of the most violent weekend in Chicago’s modern history.

On May 31, two 18-year-old girls, both students, were among the murdered people.

Lazarra Daniels, a student at DRW College Prep in Lawndale, was found shot by officers at 10:51 p.m. Sunday in the 4200th block of West Van Buren Street.

Image credits: Facebook

Keishanay Bolden, a student at Western Illinois University, was killed Sunday afternoon when she was shot during an argument in Englewood, where she grew up. She was studying law enforcement and justice and hoped to become a correctional officer.

Image credits: Western Illinois University

The ones offering support and comfort to the families of those killed have seen more anguish and grief than most.

Andrew Holmes and Pastor Donovan Price who respond to crime scenes across the city, say this tragic weekend was different. Pastor Prince shared:

“I’ve been experiencing a great, great, great, great, great deal of anxiety. I’ve been hurting, I’ve been paining, I’ve been crying, I’ve been losing sleep for the city because I love the city.”

His ally, Mr. Holmes, knows violence all too well, even aside from his work. In 2015, his daughter was shot dead in Indianapolis. Two years later, his 11-year-old cousin was killed in Parkway Gardens on the South Side. He shares he’s felt ‘kind of numb’ during the last week, struggling to find words of comfort for grieving families.

“Sometimes when they lose their baby, there’s not a right word that you can say.”

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