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Articles Posted in Violent Crimes

In September of last year, Chicago police announced they were “going after the gangs” in an apparent bid to reduce crime. However, it is now a year later and the number of shootings and gang-related violence has yet to dwindle. Police Superintendent David Brown said that he wanted it well known, the Chicago police will be going after the gangs. He also mentioned that they would be doing it Constitutionally and without violating anyone’s rights. 

Gang violence remains a major problem in Chicago and across the U.S. with gangs handling drug and weapons trafficking and becoming involved in an increasing number of identity thefts. Police struggle to keep up with the problem largely because they have lost control of the territories they patrol. This is not a new phenomenon. The birth of gangs in the U.S. relates to under-policing in certain districts. Instead of paying police for protection out of your tax dollars, you pay gangs for protection. The gangs identify and eliminate potential threats to the community. However, remaining solvent over the years has proven troublesome and the public does not trust the police enough to protect them if they provide information. In terms of hearts and minds, police have lost that battle largely due to abuses committed over the years by Chicago police officers who would have been happier operating out of gangs than within law enforcement. The following are some of the structural problems that allow gangs to thrive in cities.

Hearts and Minds

With problems concerning “progressive prosecutors” now a major wedge issue in the political arena, you should expect to hear about the weekly number of shootings and murders in Chicago regularly. Are we really that bad, though? What about NYC and Los Angeles? How many people got killed there over the weekend? 

Before we answer that question, it is important to understand that Chicago has its own unique problems and these comparisons are never as useful as they seem. However, it appears that Chicago will win the Labor Day contest as to which city contributed the most casualties to the weekend. In most cases, these attacks will be targeted and gang-related. In some cases, stray bullets will hit unintended targets. In other cases, disputes erupt in public that are solved with bullets. 

How are Other Cities Doing With Gun Violence?

As more becomes known about the Highland Park massacre, the ability of the shooter, Robert E. Crimo III, to legally purchase an AR-15-style weapon is under intense scrutiny. Police say that there were two red flags with Crimo, but none of them made it to the attention of federal authorities who handle FOID card applications. Crimo was legally able to purchase the weapon in the Chicago area.

Family members say that they had no warning of the attack. Authorities say that Crimo was the recipient of mental health services after a failed suicide attempt. Afterward, the police removed several knives and a sword from Crimo’s apartment after he threatened to “kill everyone.” Neither of these triggered an arrest giving authorities no good reason for denying Crimo the FOID card. Now, many are wondering what more could have been done to stop the senseless attack on the July 4th parade. 

Crimo has been charged with seven counts of first-degree murder. While Illinois does not have the death penalty, the federal government could opt into the prosecution to pursue the death penalty against the defendant. It remains unclear if terrorism charges will be filed, but it not typical for American citizens to be charged with terrorism. That may change as more mass shootings for political reasons plague the nation. 

In terms of senseless tragedies, this one makes as little sense as any. One man is facing charges after he allegedly poured lighter fluid on a sleeping homeless man and ignited it. The homeless man, who was featured in a documentary, was known to Chicagoans as “the walking man.” He is not expected to survive the attack. 

A 27-year-old man has been charged. If the victim dies, the defendant will face charges of first-degree murder. Surveillance cameras show the man scoping the area for traffic before dumping the lighter fluid from a cup onto the sleeping man. The homeless man began thrashing wildly when a security guard noticed him and put out the blaze. 911 was immediately called. 

Police used the surveillance footage to track down the suspect, who told them that he had found a cup full of gasoline and wanted to set some trash on fire. When asked why, he told police he was an angry person. The defendant maintains that he was not aware that a person was sleeping there. Medical personnel have described the burns as “non-survivable.”

It has been a while since we have discussed the Ahmad Arbery case. The three men convicted of killing Arbery faced state murder charges in Georgia. Each was convicted on felony murder or malice murder charges, with the ringleader facing the harshest charges of the three. But their problems did not stop there. The federal government also wanted a piece of the men and convicted them on additional charges.

This does not happen very often, but the federal government can increase the misery of certain individuals by filing federal charges against those who have already been convicted of state-level charges. In the case of the Arbery killers, the three men were tried and convicted of murder based only on the facts of the crime. In other words, the Georgia prosecutors avoided bringing race into the prosecution at all. It was a tricky maneuver because everyone knew that this was a racially motivated attack. But Georgia has a large population of rural whites, which makes it among the most conservative states in the country next to neighboring Alabama. 

So state prosecutors decided to try the three men based on the facts of the altercation with Arbery and successfully gained convictions when the defendants failed to prove that Arbery had a weapon or was a threat when they rode him down in their pickup.

Prosecutors have dropped felony charges against a suspect who was implicated in the shooting death of a 7-year-old girl and an injury to her 6-year-old sister. Prosecutors refused to pursue felony charges against one of the suspects citing the lack of evidence and the failure of one witness to cooperate. The witness is believed to be a relative of the girls and was in a dispute with one of the suspects. Without this witness’s testimony, the murder trial against at least one suspect will not move forward. Prosecutors also cited a lack of a confession or video evidence as a reason to drop the felony charges.

The outraged police officers threatened to ignore the prosecutors and try the case themselves. But the prosecutor said they would dismiss the case if the police took that route. To avoid a public battle between police and prosecutors, police backed down from their threats. The suspect is now being held on a minor parole violation. However, the felony charges against him related to the shooting are gone. 

The State Attorney’s Office issued a statement that said that prosecutors and police are now in accord with the handling of the case. Prosecutors reiterated that there was simply not enough evidence to bring the case to trial. The Chicago Police Department did not issue a comment when asked.

Chicago P.D. is being pressured by activists to stop using the ShotSpotter technology that allows them to respond to reports of gunfire. Activists claim that police are using ShotSpotter reports to fabricate evidence against shooting victims. They also claim that the microphone sensors are placed disproportionately in minority neighborhoods. 

Prosecutors in Chicago have been forced to withdraw evidence related to ShotSpotter after discoveries have been made that the technology could be easily tampered with. Police departments use the technology to find gunshots and increase response times. Adam Toledo was among the incidents in which ShotSpotter technology was employed. Police say there was a report of gunfire, an assailant was firing into vehicles. That is when they caught up with Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old with a gun. Toledo tried to ditch the gun, but when he pulled it out, the officer shot him.

What is wrong with ShotSpotter?

The officer is okay. He was shot in the vest. The woman who fired the bullets, however, was critically injured in the exchange of gunfire. She was charged with attempted murder, weapons crimes, and aggravated battery. On Monday, she accepted a plea for aggravated battery and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Good behavior credits plus time served mean that she could be out in as little as four years. Had the defendant been convicted of attempted murder, she would have faced a minimum sentence of 26 years. 

What Happened?

Two plainclothes officers witnessed the defendant during a suspected drug deal. One officer called the defendant over for questioning. She immediately ran. The officer gave chase. When he was about to catch up with her, she turned around and shot him. The bullet penetrated a flashlight on his vest and then also penetrated the vest leaving a scar on his body near his heart. The officers returned fire but critically wounded the defendant who survived her injuries to stand trial. She was expected to plead innocent and then defend herself at trial, but a last-minute plea deal subverted the effort.

Adam Toledo is among the latest victims of police violence, but bodycam footage shows the officer making a split-second decision as Toledo turned around. Toledo had deposited the gun behind a fence and was no longer holding it when the officer discharged his weapon. He had put his hands up, and in the heat of the moment, the officer shot him. The officer involved in the shooting will not face any charges related to Toledo’s death. The same cannot be said for the 21-year-old, Ruben Roman, who allegedly gave Toledo the gun.

What Police Think Happened

Roman and Toledo were together. Roman was discharging his weapon. The sound startled nearby residents, who called the police. Roman knew that the police were coming, so he gave the weapon to a 13-year-old who would not face charges. Roman had already faced weapons charges and was on gun probation at the time of the incident. So that is how the 13-year-old ended up with the weapon. The 13-year-old is running around with the weapon, police order him to drop it and put his hands up, and even though he complies, they shoot. Toledo dies.

For those of you who have not followed the story, Adam Toledo was a 13-year-old person of color who was shot dead by police officer Eric Stillman. Police received a call of weapons fire and they responded. Toledo and an older boy were allegedly firing into vehicles with loaded weapons. The cops responded, they caught up with Toledo on foot. The police officer was running with his weapon drawn when Toledo dumped his weapon and turned around with his hands up. The officer, not knowing whether or not Toledo was turning to shoot or to surrender, fired on the spot, killing Toledo. Should the officer be held accountable for this crime?

Where do We Lay the Blame?

Already, lines are beginning to form. On the one side, you have people blaming the police officer for using cowboy tactics to contain the situation. Others blame the 13-year-old, his parents, or the older boy who was with him at the time, Ruben Roman, who put the gun in his hands. Roman will face charges for putting the gun into the hands of the 13-year-old. But police-reform advocates believe that police are scapegoating Roman for their own mistake. Could it be that they are actually all right?

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