Lawmakers blast police response at illegal drifting event where 5 were shot, but they don’t agree on what should be done

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Tire marks from drifting cars can be seen in the intersection of Archer and Kedzie avenues, where five people were shot early Sunday morning.

Dave Struett | Sun-Times

Lawmakers were united Monday in slamming Chicago police for their response to a large car drifting event in Brighton Park over the weekend where three people were shot dead and two others were wounded.

But they were sharply divided on what measures should have been taken, with a mayoral candidate saying police should have aggressively moved in to disperse as many as 100 cars, while another alderperson said police need more legal leeway to monitor social media before the events.

The division illustrates how the city has struggled to control such events as they’ve grown in popularity and size, with spectators closing down intersections for hours as cars drift and spin out in high-speed circles.

Shootings have generally not occurred at the events, though firecrackers have been thrown at officers trying to break them up and squad cars have been damaged.

Around 4 a.m. Sunday, crowds had closed the intersection of Archer and Kedzie avenues when shots rang out, according to police and video posted to social media. 

Deering District Cmdr. Don Jerome said officers had been monitoring the event and told officers near the scene that shots had been fired and bystanders were “hitting the ground.” As many as 28 shell casings were seen littering the area, but no guns were recovered.

No arrests have been reported, although a source said police are searching for a gunman caught on a city surveillance camera.  Jerome said all three people who died had been “involved” in the shooting but he gave no details.

The ages of four of the victims ranged from 19 to 21. The fifth victim’s age hadn’t been released. 

‘Caught off guard’

Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd), one of the sponsors of an ordinance that allows police to impound cars at the events, said police officials were “caught off guard,” partially because their ability to monitor social media accounts “is severely restricted.”

Because officers haven’t been able to get ahead of the events, Hopkins said there’s only been limited use of “spike strips” that deflate tires and stop drivers in their tracks. He said it would’ve been “extraordinarily dangerous” for outnumbered police to use that tactic in Brighton Park anyway.

Police were busy responding to dozens of other shootings across the city during one of the deadliest weekends this year. At least 12 people were killed in gun violence in the city, nine of them Saturday night through early Sunday.

Hopkins said he’s exploring other “legislative solutions” that could “enhance the ability to seize and impound vehicles involved in all manner of illegal activities.” 

“We need to step up our game in terms of our ability to stop it and to arrest, prosecute and incarcerate the people that are responsible for it,” he said.

Since the ordinance was enacted in July, police had impounded just 26 vehicles and submitted 72 requests to take others by last week. The police department has created a “caravan task force,” but a spokesperson wouldn’t say how many officers it includes.

Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th), who represents Brighton Park and is running for mayor, said police need to use city vehicles like salt and garbage trucks to block drivers and impound their vehicles on the spot.

“If you want to deter this, if you want to show meaningful consequence, we need to be able to prevent them from leaving with their vehicles by boxing them in,” Lopez said.

He noted that Archer Avenue has become popular with stunt drivers, and the intersection of Archer and Kedzie had already been used for two previous takeovers. “We need to show people that we are going to take this seriously in the city of Chicago.”

Hopkins countered that Lopez’s proposal isn’t feasible and places city workers in danger.

But the two lawmakers found common ground in slamming Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

“I don’t think she’s even made a statement in the aftermath of the fatal incident at Archer and Kedzie,” Hopkins said. “So it’s not on her radar screen, which is just a further indictment of her utter failure to address the rampant criminality on the streets of Chicago right now.”

Representatives for Lightfoot didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. 

‘Too many consequences’

Crime has surged in the Deering police district this year, with shootings up 6% and homicides up 24% from last year. In contrast, shootings citywide have fallen by 20%.

Arturo Carrillo, director of health and violence prevention at the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, said one of those killed had participated in another organization’s mentorship program.

“It’s apparent that the policing strategies that the city has aren’t working,” he said. “There’s too many guns [and] there’s too many consequences for youth being out in situations that shouldn’t result in them losing their lives.”

Carrillo called for more investment to engage with young people “well before they’re out there causing harm to others,” and to disrupt a cycle of violence in which “one shooting leads to another.”

“Trying to find ways of interrupting that violence is super important, super critical,” he said. “And we just don’t have enough resources to continue to engage with youths in a proactive manner, instead of reacting after the violence has already occurred.”

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October 24, 2022 at 06:52PM

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