13 wounded in Cornell Square Park, 3-year-old shot in face - FOX 32 News Chicago

13 wounded in gang shooting at Chicago park, assault rifle used

Posted: Updated:
3-year-old shooting victim (Photo provided by Pastor Corey Brooks) 3-year-old shooting victim (Photo provided by Pastor Corey Brooks)
Victim Niesha Brannon, 33. Victim Niesha Brannon, 33.
An assault rifle is recovered 15 blocks from the scene. An assault rifle is recovered 15 blocks from the scene.
An assault rifle is recovered 15 blocks from the scene. An assault rifle is recovered 15 blocks from the scene.
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Thirteen people were shot Thursday night in Back of the Yards when two gunmen opened fire on a group watching a basketball game at Cornell Square Park. A 3-year-old boy was shot in the face.

Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said that the gunman fired at least 16 rounds from a 7.65 rifle. Law enforcement sources tell FOX 32 News the casings found would have been fired by an AK-47--either a long barrel assault rifle or a modified pistol version.

On Friday afternoon, just a mile and a half away from the shooting scene, police made a disturbing discovery: an assault rifle dumped in a trash can. Police have not confirmed if the weapon found is in fact the one used in Thursday's shooting.

McCarthy did say, however, the incident was a gang-related shooting.

"There was a basketball game going on," McCarthy said. "The park is open until 11 p.m. We have a policy where the beat officers go into the park and shut it down."

Since the shooting took place at 10:15 p.m. Thursday, park visitors had at least 45 more minutes to enjoy the warm night. When the shots rang out, the group scattered, taking cover wherever they could.

Julian Harris, 22, said his 3-year-old nephew, Deonta "Tay-man" Howard, was shot in the face.

SPECIAL: Chicago at Tipping Point - Violence in Chicago

Deonta was taken in critical condition to Mount Sinai Hospital. Semecha Nunn, the boy's grandmother, said Friday that he's "doing better" and is "very strong" after having plastic surgery.

Harris said dreadlocked gunmen in a gray sedan fired at him at the corner of Wood and 51st before turning north on Wood and shooting up the park. According to other witnesses, two gunmen got out of the car and began shooting.

"They hit the light pole next to me but I ducked down and ran into the house," Harris said. "They've been coming round here looking for people to shoot every night — just gang-banging stuff. It's what they do."

McCarthy also said given the type of weapon used, it is "a miracle there were no fatalities."

The police superintendent said investigators believe several people were involved, but that it wasn't clear yet whether more than one person opened fire. He said based on witness interviews, it appears the attack was gang-related and that several victims are gang members.

"We don't have anybody that I would call in custody at this point," McCarthy said. "We are interviewing people. We're going to come to a quick conclusion on this, as we have with other high profile cases as well."

The young boy's aunt, 18-year-old Lavada Hardeman said her brother was killed on Labor Day.

"I can't catch a break," Hardeman said.

The 3-year-old's uncle, Jerome "J Money" Wood, a rapper who was affiliated with Def Jam artist Durk "Lil Durk" Banks, was shot in the head and died on Sept. 2 in the 6600 block of South Rhodes in the Woodlawn neighborhood.

Corey Brooks, pastor of New Beginnings Church on the South Side, presided over Wood's funeral. He said he was called early Friday to again comfort the family at the hospital.

"They're frustrated, upset and hurt and disappointed that this is just happening over and over and over in our community," Brooks said.

Brooks said the bullet passed through Deonta's face, but did not cause brain damage.

"The family's all here. They're pretty distraught," said Brooks, adding that he does not think the shooting was connected to Wood's death.

"Senseless and brazen acts of violence have no place in Chicago and betray all that we stand for," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in statement Friday morning.

SEE: Emanuel calls Chicago shooting 'senseless and brazen'

He said the criminals will be brought to justice and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

"I encourage everyone in the community to step forward with any information and everyone in Chicago to continue their individual efforts to build stronger communities where violence has no place," Emanuel said Friday.

Brooks also urged the gunman to turn himself in. He told FOX 32 News that witnesses got a very good look at the shooter's face, and that they know who he is. Brooks fears that retaliation is a very real possibility and said the suspect will become a shooting victim himself if that happens.

At the scene of the shooting, a woman identified by family as the 3-year-old's grandmother — who is the slain rapper's mother — lashed out at police, yelling, "You . . . . cops can't solve s - - -."

Family eventually persuaded her to climb into an SUV waiting to take her to the hospital.

Harold Hall, a community activist whose own son was killed by gun violence 9-years ago, told FOX 32 News on Friday that his neighborhood hasn't seen the amount of police coverage other neighborhoods have received.

"The fact of the matter is that it appears that they can't help us, the police. People talk about the National Guard… Actually I'm in favor of someone coming here to save our children," Hall said. "People down in Springfield are talking about their checks when they really ought to be out here on ground zero with us to combat this problem."

"This is not a black problem," Hall said. "This is a human problem."

Neighbors around the park marveled at the sight of dozens of police and described how their evenings were interrupted by the staccato sound of gunfire. Neighbors said they dove to the floor for cover in their homes.

A 13-year-old neighbor said she was in her living room across the park when she heard multiple shots. "I got down because I was scared," she said in Spanish.

"Now I'm scared after seeing this," Claudio Patino said in Spanish. "I haven't seen this ever. This is the first time."

Kevin Green, 50, said he saw multiple injured victims being taken away on stretchers.

"The women were crying and screaming," he said. "It was wild."

Francis John, 70, was upstairs in her three-flat near the park when she heard gunfire: "It was a lot of boom, boom, boom."

When she went outside to see what had happened, she said she saw "a lot of youngsters running scared."

John, who said she has lived in the neighborhood since 1983, was surprised by the shootings Thursday night. During her 30 years in the area she has seen the neighborhood go from good to bad, to better in recent years.

"We were surprised. People are watching the community," John said, referring to neighborhood watch efforts. "I thought [the shootings] were over. But despite this incident, it's not as bad as it used to be."

McCarthy said weapons like the one used in the attack belong on a battlefield, not on American streets.

"It's unusual in a civilized society that something like this could happen," McCarthy said.

SEE: McCarthy says assault-style gun used in attack

He adamantly said "real action" on new laws is necessary to restrict such weapons, to require better background checks and make it mandatory for gun transfers to be reported – including those lost or stolen. He said this would help curb the number of illegal weapons in Chicago.

"Illegal guns. Illegal guns. Illegal guns drive violence," McCarthy said.

Chicago's homicide numbers made national headlines once again on Thursday, as FBI crime statistic from 2012 determine the city to be the murder capital of America. Although the number of murders in Chicago are lower for 2013, the battle against violent crime continues.

"Every shooting is a setback in the city's battle against violent crime," McCarthy said. "Every resident of this city should feel the same sense of safety and security."

McCarthy said police will work until this is accomplished.

Police listed the victims as:

  • A 3-year-old boy, shot in the ear, in critical condition at Mount Sinai
  • A 17-year-old girl, shot in the foot, condition stabilized at Holy Cross Hospital
  • A 15-year-old boy shot in the arm, stabilized at Holy Cross
  • Male, 27, shot in the leg and wrist, serious condition at Mount Sinai
  • Male, 24, shot twice in the stomach, serious condition at Mount Sinai
  • Male, 21, shot in the leg, serious condition at Mount Sinai
  • Male, 41, shot in the buttocks, serious condition at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital
  • Female, 33, shot in the shoulder, condition stabilized at Northwestern Memorial Hospital
  • Male, 31, shot in the buttocks, condition stabilized at Northwestern
  • Female, 23, shot in the foot, condition stabilized at St. Anthony Hospital
  • Male, 37, shot in the leg, in good condition at Stroger
  • Male, 25, shot in the knee, in good condition at Northwestern
  • And a male, 33, who drove himself to Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park with a gunshot wound to the leg. He was treated and released.

The Sun-Times Media Wire and Associated Press contributed to this report.

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