WICKER PARK — Police shed new light Thursday on two slayings that have shaken Wicker Park this month, saying one happened after underage gang members were turned away from a bar and the other after an attempt to solve a dispute went awry.
Wicker Park residents came out Thursday evening to talk about what was being done to combat the violence in their neighborhood. They were told that measures included the installation of a new camera to monitor the park.
The meeting, hosted by Ald. Joe Moreno (1st), gave community members a chance to air their concerns and hear what police and Chicago Park District officials were doing to address the problem.
Valadez said last weekend's shooting that killed 19-year-old Delgado stemmed from a beef between the Imperial Gangsters and Latin Kings.
Delgado and his friends, who were all underage, were turned away from a bar on Milwaukee Avenue. Another group inside the bar began "razzing" Delgado and his friends about it, which led to a fight that ended with gunshots, Valadez said.
"It was just one of these perfect storms, if you will," Valadez said. "Both groups happened to be in the same place at the same time."
Police told residents the shooting on Sept. 6 that killed 35-year-old Emmanuel Bass was not a "gang matter," although Valadez said the two groups involved have gang ties.
Police said the groups met at Wicker Park to hash out a disagreement because the park was neutral ground, but after a misunderstanding, Bass was shot. Police would not elaborate on the dispute.
Residents said they were especially on edge given one shooting happened in Wicker Park, a public space.
Clare Rodriguez, the park supervisor for Wicker Park, said the recent violence has caused her to turn away people who have asked to host events in the park.
"One of the Chicago Bulls came in over the weekend, and I really just suggested to him that this would not be a good time to rent the fields with everything that was going on," she said. "How long are we going to be in an unstable place?"
Valadez said he did not believe the park was unstable and added there was "no way to have prevented" the shooting that killed Bass.
"It was a one-time event," he said. "To say no to prospective events, I think you sometimes fall into what the media wants you to believe is that the city is the worst place to be."
Sgt. Joseph Giambrone said that before the shootings he asked his officers to put an emphasis on enforcing park hours, and they had issued more than 30 citations for such violations as drinking in public.
Police also urged residents to call 911 whenever they see a suspicious person or vehicle. Giambrone said neighbors already do a great job of communicating with police.
"We're definitely here. We're definitely working with you," Giambrone said. "Keep up what you're doing. We promise to keep up our end."
Moreno said the city will install a third camera in the park that the park security guard will be able to monitor from the field house, something the park did not have at the time of the shooting. Moreno said that camera should be up and running at the beginning of November.
Some neighbors said they wanted more security after the park closes at 11 p.m.
Park District officials said one car patrols all the parks on the North Side for burglary alarms at night. Moreno said he is looking into increasing that number.
Residents also asked what could be done about "gutter punks" in the area. Moreno said he believed the group of traveling homeless youths, who had been in Wicker Park most of the summer, had moved on to New Orleans, but he said the best way to address the problem was to make the group feel unwelcome.
"My feeling is, in working with the police, is that if you can make it as uncomfortable and unattractive to be there, [they will leave]," Moreno said.
Moreno said one way was to ask local liquor stores in the area not to sell the group alcohol. Giambrone said another way was to encourage residents not to give the group money.
"Quite frankly, the only reason why they are succeeding, or staying around, is people are giving them money," he said.