By JEFFREY BISHKU-AYKUL
Safety in Jackson Park is the focus of renewed attention after a shooting there last Sunday that killed one man and wounded another.
Last Monday, Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) held a meeting at Montgomery Place, 5550 S. Shore Drive, attended by 3rd District Cmdr. James Jones and 2nd District Sgt. T. Ware to discuss the shootings in the park’s Iowa Building, on the 5600 block of South Everett Avenue. Jones said the homicide victim was targeted, but that police didn’t know why.
“Just because the victim had some type of gang membership doesn’t mean that it was gang related,” Jones said. “To me it sounds like it’s something personal, to come up that close to someone to do what you had to do.”
The incident took place around 7:20 p.m. on June 22 near the border of the 2nd and 3rd police districts, according to police. A 41-year-old man sustained a gunshot wound in his left arm and a 34-year-old man was killed after sustaining two gunshot wounds to the back of his head. The homicide victim was with two other people at the time of the shooting, including a relative who was shot, according to Jones. As of press time, Area Central detectives are investigating the incident and no charges have been filed.
On the night of the incident, bike patrol units, a police car, officers at the 55th and 57th Street lakefront tunnels and joint operation missions with University of Chicago police were in effect, according to Ware. But he said that the immediate vicinity of Sunday’s murder has not historically been a problem area.
“Now that we’ve seen that some people do hang here, then that’s going start to be addressed,” said Ware, who added that an additional police car would now be patrolling the area.
When the alderman was asked why parks remained open until 11 p.m., she said she would get the portion of Jackson Park where the murder happened closed by 9 p.m. Although she conceded that Sunday’s murder occurred before that time, she said it might prevent a similar incident in the future.
“If this is becoming a problem, then you try something different,” Hairston said.
Hairston also shared her plan to amend the Chicago’s municipal code so that firearm carriers in parks face the same penalties as in school zones and city buses. According to a copy of the ordinance Hairston says she introduced in City Council last Wednesday, first-time offenders could face up to $5,000 in fines and six months in jail.
“It has to do with me thinking, ‘If they didn’t have a gun in the park, then maybe this would not have happened,’” Hairston said in an interview following Monday’s meeting. “The goal is to act as a deterrent.”
Although at least one Jackson Park Advisory Council (JPAC) member has expressed concern about the park’s 9 p.m. closing restricting public access, group president Louise McCurry supports the measure.
“It makes good sense to me. I wouldn’t do it before nine, but I think nine o’clock is a reasonable hour,” she said.
McCurry also said she supports enhancing penalties for carrying guns in parks. “Decreasing guns and decreasing alcohol, those are the two things that tend to make a difference,” she said.
“Anything Alderman Hairston can do to decrease guns in the park,” McCurry added, “— whether it’s related to a murder or not —is a wonderful thing. Period.”
Already, McCurry says she’s seen improvements at the Iowa Building in the aftermath of the murder. The next day, she said, she called the park district about fixing the lighting timer. That night, the building was lit and the next morning foresters removed branches that shrouded the building.
McCurry calls the Iowa Building a double edged sword: she says people come to the building to read and walk their dogs, as well as practice yoga, tai chi and kung fu, but that it also attracts drinking, after-school loitering, loud music and sleeping.
“I would pick up two or four bags of bottles every weekend,” McCurry said, adding that she found 30 dime bags in early June.” JPAC seeks to enclose the building’s inner area and make it a community space, a costly long-term initiative McCurry says may require fundraising.
“It’s a wonderful community resource. It simply has to be managed,” McCurry said.