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Authorities in Chicago announced charges today against four men for a blaze of gunfire in a park last week. Bullets hit 13 people, including a three-year-old boy. A judge has ordered the suspects jailed without bond. Police say the attack was retaliation for another shooting that took place earlier that same day.
NPR's David Schaper tells us area residents are glad for the arrests but they're still fearful of gun violence.
DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: Chicago police say the gunfire that erupted in a park on the city South Side last Thursday night could have been avoided. Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy says one of the four men charged today, 21-year old Bryon Champ, had himself been shot earlier in the day and suffered a minor graze wound. But rather than report it to police and allow them to try bring the gunman to justice, McCarthy says Champ and three fellow gang members instead sought revenge.
GARRY MCCARTHY: When Mr. Champ was shot, he believed that the rival gang controlled the territory of Cornell Park. And that's where they went to shoot up the park.
SCHAPER: McCarthy says the shooters weren't even aiming at anyone in particular when they opened fire, with two guns, including what McCarthy says was a military-grade assault style weapon. The spray of bullets hit and wounded 13 people, including a three-year-old boy who was shot in the face and is recovering.
And McCarthy says Champ shouldn't have been on the street at all. He was convicted last year of unlawful use of a firearm but sentenced to boot camp instead of prison.
MCCARTHY: A little more than a year later, he's the main player in the shooting of 13 people in one of our neighborhoods.
SCHAPER: McCarthy says mandatory prison time for gun crimes could have prevented this mass shooting. Family and friends of some of the four charged say they don't believe the men committed the crime. But in the neighborhood around the park where the shooting took place, residents say they are relieved to hear the alleged shooters are in custody.
JOE BALTAZAR: Hey, at least they got the kid - the people that did that. They can't go and hurt nobody else no more.
SCHAPER: Forty-two-year old Joe Baltazar calls all gang members cowards. But he acknowledges that gangs and gun violence are a pervasive problem in this part of the city.
BALTAZAR: I fear for my life every day when I walk around here, because it's bad. It used to be a good neighborhood, it ain't no more.
SCHAPER: Other residents here echo Baltazar's concern. And despite a drop in violent crime this year in Chicago, they fear the long-term problem of gun violence in neighborhoods like this one has no end in sight.
David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago.
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