NPR Reporter Witnesses One Of Chicago's Latest Shootings

Gun violence in Chicago is so common in some neighborhoods that the daily reports of shootings can seem like little more than numbers. Our reporter saw the dangers of Chicago's South Side firsthand.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Earlier this year, a federal judge overturned Chicago's longtime ban on gun shops. The city is now racing to enact new regulations before stores start selling firearms. Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to limit customers to one gun per month and require video recordings of each and every purchase. Yesterday afternoon, while out reporting another story, NPR's David Schaper came face to face with the city's gun violence. He sent us this postcard from Chicago.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: I'm sitting outside of Asiaha Butler's house in Englewood, one of Chicago's most impoverished South Side communities, interviewing the 38-year-old real estate professional about her community engagement effort.

ASIAHA BUTLER: So right now you are sitting on my porch, which is my unofficial office. And so I have a lot of meetings on this porch.

SCHAPER: Butler is cofounder of the Resident Association of Greater Englewood, or R.A.G.E., a group trying to mobilize the neighborhood for positive change. And she routinely holds both formal meetings and impromptu gatherings on her front porch because, despite Englewood's reputation for crime and violence, she says this block is safe. In fact, there are many people out on this warm afternoon and several of us on the porch - including the upstairs tenants' little girl, who has just come home from school. When...

BUTLER: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUNSHOTS)

BUTLER: Oh, my Jesus.

SCHAPER: About 30 or 40 yards away, a man is standing outside of a car, firing a large semi-automatic rifle at a target around the corner we cannot see. Asiaha pushes the little girl indoors, and some people duck down and scurry while some of us just watch in bewilderment while the shooter gets back into his car and drives down the street, right in our direction. Everyone on the block is OK, but parents continue to shout at their kids to get inside. Those who were inside come out, and in semi-disbelief, Butler recounts what just happened.

BUTLER: He got out the car - he parked right there and got out and just started shooting.

SCHAPER: The shooter's target was a van traveling east on 66th Street, not even a half a block away. Police say it was found at a nearby hospital with bullet holes on all four sides, though some could have been from shots that went all the way through. One passenger in the van, a 28-year-old male, was hit - the bullet lodged in his head, behind his ear. Police say it's a serious injury - possibly life-threatening. The victim was initially conscious and talking, but a detective tells me he refused to cooperate with investigators. Back on the porch, I, Butler and other neighbors are still in shock.

BUTLER: I actually didn't even duck because I was just so - I thought it was, like, a movie. Like, I was just so stunned.

SCHAPER: I felt the same. And a passing ice cream truck, just three minutes after somebody opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle on this block, made it all the more surreal. Soon, the block is saturated with police. Then one of the late-arriving neighborhood leaders, Demond Drummer, realizes I'm a reporter.

DEMOND DRUMMER: You're from NPR?

SCHAPER: Yeah, yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

DRUMMER: Oh, but this - this is not typical.

BUTLER: This is not typical.

DRUMMER: I mean, very honestly, I - this is not typical.

SCHAPER: Well, we were just talking and you said you never see this.

BUTLER: No, I've never seen that.

DRUMMER: No, this is not - this is not at all - are you still recording? This is not typical.

SCHAPER: Drummer says he's embarrassed and angry that on a day he and Butler had met a reporter to talk about how they were working to empower Englewood residents to take back, improve and beautify their community, I also see Englewood's ugliest and most dangerous side.

DRUMMER: Well, I'll say it's far too common. But it's not normal...

BUTLER: Here.

DRUMMER: ...For this section. Yeah.

BUTLER: Yeah.

DRUMMER: It's far too common, but it's not that normal.

(SOUNDBITE OF SIREN)

SCHAPER: And this shooting in Englewood happens just a few hours after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposes strict regulations for new gun shops. David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago.

GREENE: This is NPR News.

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