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Bridgeport Shooting Leaves Neighbors Uneasy

By Casey Cora | July 30, 2013 6:37am
 The 31st Street corridor at Lituanica Avenue is a busy thoroughfare for motorists and pedestrians.
The 31st Street corridor at Lituanica Avenue is a busy thoroughfare for motorists and pedestrians.
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DNAinfo/Casey Cora

BRIDGEPORT — An unsolved shooting at a busy neighborhood intersection has prompted new questions of safety for residents and business owners.

The shooting took place just before 10 p.m. Thursday at 31st Street and Lituanica Avenue, where authorities said a gunman opened fire, injuring a man as a bullet grazed his head. Authorities said the victim was 22 years old, but neighbors said he's younger, perhaps 19 or 20.

Police said the victim was targeted and that the shooting wasn't random.

“The grazing was more luck on his part,” Officer Jose Estrada said.

As investigators continue their search for the gunman, neighbors in the nearby Bridgeport Homes housing development said the shooting is the culmination of gang activity in the area. Neighbors said the shooting victim lived in the complex.

But whether or not the area is outright dangerous or relatively safe depends on who you ask.

Situated between the Chicago Police Department’s Deering District Headquarters and the neighborhood’s cultural epicenter of 31st and Morgan, the Bridgeport Homes offer housing for hundreds of people.

Several residents who live at the complex and declined to give their name said the 70-year-old development has gotten “rowdier” in recent years and said the tension “escalates and escalates and escalates until there’s a shooting.”

Still, others say it’s gotten better and that large clusters of gangbangers have been pushed out by recent police efforts. One man said Thursday's shooting was a rarity, saying he felt perfectly comfortable stepping outside for a cigarette in the wee hours.

"It's not like it smells like piss or anything. There's no spray paint and nothing's busted," he said.

A representative from Bridgeport Homes referred questions to the Chicago Housing Authority, the city entity that oversees the development.

The property is managed by The Habitat Company, and housing applicants are subject to a three-year criminal background check, a check of landlord history, housekeeping inspections and income verification, among other regulations, the agency said. Current residents are re-screened "for continuing compliance with CHA lease annually and on an ongoing basis."

The CHA said in a statement that two private security guards were on duty during Thursday's shooting and that "security cameras on site captured important evidence that was turned over to Chicago Police to assist with their investigation. At this time, no CHA resident is suspected of being involved as an offender in this case."

Across the street from the shooting scene, workers at the Car One auto repair garage on Monday said the intersection often draws rival gang members who battle for turf.

“Name calling. Tires squealing. Every once in a while I’ll see a gun. But for the most part it’s safe. We’ve been here for 15 years and for the most part nothing’s ever happened here," said auto shop employee Mary Medrano. "At least in the daytime."