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Five Wounded in Shooting Along Uptown 'Safe Passage' Route

By  Darryl Holliday Erica Demarest Benjamin Woodard and Quinn Ford | August 19, 2013 1:17pm | Updated on August 20, 2013 6:31am

 Five people were shot in front of an Uptown church shortly before 6 p.m. Monday.
Five Shot in Uptown
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UPTOWN — A shooting that left five men wounded, four critically, happened along a Chicago Public Schools "safe passage" route Monday evening.

The shooting happened just before 6 p.m. Monday near Uptown Baptist Church, in the 4500 block of Sheridan Road, officials said.

The bloody crime scene was in the middle of a "Safe Passage" route  where students from the shuttered Stewart School will walk to get to nearby Brenneman Elementary starting next week.

Police originally said one of the five victims, all men, was killed. But early Tuesday morning, police said the man who was reported to be dead was actually in critical condition at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center.

Three others victims were in serious to critical condition, and another man was in good condition, authorities said.

"Bout 20 shots fired outside church during Monday night meal. 5 people shot. 1 dead. Blood pools at church steps. Pray for us," tweeted the Rev. Michael Allen, head pastor at Uptown Baptist Church, 1011 W. Wilson Ave.

"A few of us went outside to see what happened," Allen said in a phone interview. "We found several people on the ground bleeding profusely, and they were screaming."

Neighborhood resident Kelsey Blankenship, 19, said she was outside during the shooting.

"I didn't hear the shots until I hit the corner. Then I heard the screaming," Blankenship said.

The man who initially was reported dead was shot in the head, Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said.

Another man was hit in the leg multiple times, while another was shot in his back, Langford said. The third victim who suffered critical injuries was shot in his arm and abdomen.

The fifth victim was shot in his hand and was in good condition.

The five victims were taken to St. Francis Hospital in Evanston and Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Langford said.

After the shooting, Kenston Rider, a manager at a nearby Starbucks on 4600 N. Magnolia St., said a man ran into his store and tried to lock himself in the women's restroom.

"He ran into our store and tried locking himself in the bathroom. Shortly later there were about a dozen cops telling him to get out," Rider said. "Nobody was hurt in the store. It was scary there for a second."

Police did not immediately confirm that account or say whether anyone was in custody.

On Monday night, blood could still be seen on the sidewalk at the southwest corner of Wilson Avenue and Sheridan Road. A bus shelter was shattered. At least 18 shell casings were on the ground. 

Witnesses at the scene said they saw a white car near the shooting, although police did not confirm that.

Blakenship referred to three of the victims as "brothers" because they were raised in the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services system.

Allen said he didn't know any of the victims.

Allen said his church sits near the border of three gang territories. The church has security cameras that might have caught footage of the shooting, the pastor said.

"We have a slogan we adopted many years ago for this very purpose: 'Get out of our seats and into the streets,' " Allen said.

Last week the church led a prayer vigil calling for an end of violence near area schools, he said.

Before the CPS board voted to close Stewart, a hearing officer recommended that the school stay open. Neighborhood parents and activists also said they feared violent clashes between students — or on the streets of Uptown.

"I can tell you from personal experience, from student's mouths to my ears, that they are afraid to go [to Brenneman]," Stewart music teacher Reggie Spears said in May.

Hearing officer Judge Charles R. Winkler agreed.

"Will an understaffed Chicago Police Department be able to provide enough officers to assist the Stewart children?" Winkler wrote. " Will CPS hire a private security company to furnish properly trained personnel?"

Allen said Monday's shooting will result in a redoubling of the church's anti-violence work.

Neighbor Donte Mearon, 35, stood outside the Uptown Baptist Church Tuesday morning and snapped a photo of the scene with his camera.

"Oh man, I had to come by and see what's happening in the neighborhood. I drive my bike past here two, three times a day. You know, this is my normal route."

The visual artist said he's lived in the general area for about a decade.

"I could have been running by; my girlfriend could have been running by," he said. "What would you do if someone started shooting? Would you get on the ground? Would you take off? What would you do? So that's kind of like things we have to think about now, the tactics."

In other incidents Monday:

• In South Shore, a 20-year-old man and a 15-year-old boy both suffered leg wounds in a shooting at 6:50 p.m. in the 7100 block of South Clyde Avenue, police said. The man was sent to Jackson Park Hospital; the boy went to Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

• A 15-year-old boy was shot in Roseland, police said. The teen was struck in his leg about 12:15 p.m. in the 11000 block of South Parnell Avenue, said Officer Jose Estrada, a Chicago Police Department spokesman. The boy was in stable condition and was being transferred to an area hospital Monday afternoon.