Spate of shootings shakes Hyde Park

By Hassan S. Ali

Four people were killed and an equal number injured as a result of 11 shootings in Hyde Park from May 9 to July 28, according to the South East Chicago Commission (SECC).

“It’s a rivalry between two groups of individuals, one that hangs out around 48th and Drexel, and the other that hangs out around 53rd and Maryland,” said Bob Mason, executive director of the SECC, a community organization that maintains data on Chicago neighborhood crime. “They’ve been warring back and forth,” Mason added.

The nearly three-month-long turf war began on May 9, according to SECC reports, when police officers heard shots fired in the 4800 block of Drexel at 1:30 a.m. When they reached the area, officers found only an abandoned handgun in the middle of the street.

In the next incident, a man identified as Robert Lee was shot and killed by a Kevin Smith, who was later arrested and charged with Lee’s murder. This occurred on May 17, at 2:55 p.m., in the 5400 block of Drexel Avenue. An unidentified man was then shot in the 4700 block of Ellis Avenue on May 23 at 11:45 a.m. The victim died from his wounds, and no arrests were made in the incident.

The string of shootings continued on June 9, at 10:35 p.m., when an unidentified man reported that three unknown offenders fired shots at him as he walked down the 5300 block of Maryland Avenue. The victim was not wounded, and no arrests were made.

The University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) and Chicago Police Department (CPD) officers heard shots fired in the 5300 block of Maryland Avenue on June 11 at 3:10 a.m. Upon searching the area, however, the officers found no direct evidence of a shooting and ruled the incident as inconclusive.

An unidentified man was reportedly standing in the 5300 block of Cottage Grove Avenue at 10:55 p.m. that same night, when an unknown person approached him and fired several shots, one of which struck him in the chest. The victim survived, but sustained serious wounds from the attack.

A man identified as Phil Caldwell was killed and another person was wounded after a shootout between rival gangs at 2:55 a.m. on June 23 in the 5400 block of Drexel, close to Bessie Coleman Park. One arrest was made in the shooting, but charges were subsequently dropped when the state’s attorney office said it lacked sufficient evidence to proceed with the case.

The rivalry extended into its second month, when on July 6, at 8:55 p.m., an unidentified man was shot twice as he walked down the 800 block of 48th Street. The victim survived, and reported that he did not know his attackers.

Several weeks later, on July 23, at 1:35 a.m., a UCPD sergeant heard shots fired in the vicinity of the 5500 block of Cottage Grove Avenue, but found no evidence of a shooting upon arriving at the scene.

Just over an hour later, at 2:50 a.m., a woman identified as Shawn Johnson was shot and killed amid gang-related crossfire while sitting with her boyfriend in his parked car in the 5300 block of Cottage Grove.

The last reported incident occurred on July 28, at 1 a.m., on the 5300 block of Maryland Avenue. According to SECC reports, a 16-year-old girl was standing on the street with two other women and a 22-year-old male companion when occupants of a passing car fired a gunshot. The 16-year-old suffered a graze wound, and the perpetrators escaped from the scene. Since the July 28 drive-by shooting, no related violence has been reported.

Sara Daniel, a fourth-year in the College, recalled her own “close calls” with two of the July shootings. “I remember talking to my roommate one morning, and she asked me if I had heard about what happened the night before,” Daniel said. “She told me that someone was shot in an alley and that the police were all over the place.” In another incident, Daniel recalled unlocking her bike around Drexel Avenue when she heard two gunshots some distance away. “I just started peddling as hard as I could,” said Daniel. “I don’t know what exactly happened, but I just wanted to get out of there.”

In a neighborhood that has seldom seen this degree of violent crime, Mason acknowledged the ongoing fears of residents. “Police know what’s going on,” he said, referring to the arrests that have been made and the return to relative calm in the streets. “Police have saturated the areas and [the violence] had to do with people dealing drugs, so the police are all over that,” Mason said.

With autumn quarter under way and police still wary of renewed violence, the sense of calm has been a reassuring aspect of security in the new school year. “I feel pretty safe now,” Daniel said. “I’m glad things have settled down.”