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Rogers Park Violence: Residents Fear 'Killing Fields' North of Howard

By Benjamin Woodard | April 25, 2014 8:08am
 A worker cleans the sidewalk north of Howard Street where Keno Glass, 16, was shot and killed on April 15.
A worker cleans the sidewalk north of Howard Street where Keno Glass, 16, was shot and killed on April 15.
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DNAinfo/Benjamin Woodard

ROGERS PARK — The father of a murdered Rogers Park man said gang members used his son and other victims of recent neighborhood violence as "target practice."

"They shoot them in the chest, then they shoot them in the face — execution-style," Karl Villanueva Sr. said Thursday night at a community policing meeting in a school cafeteria.

Villanueva's son — Mark "Peachie" Villanueva — was gunned down the day before Thanksgiving as he  walked to his home north of Howard Street.

Since then, several people have been injured in shootings in Rogers Park, and three have been killed, including 16-year-old Keno Glass last week and 36-year-old Darnall Gordon a week before.

Villanueva described the area where his family lives — and where Gordon and Keno were shot — as "the killing fields that is north of Howard."

Fellow residents said Thursday they were scared to walk the streets, fearful of becoming victims themselves.

Other residents were "livid" that neighborhood officials didn't show at the well-attended meeting to address concerns.

"Where's the alderman?" asked Kevin Richardson, 51, before district officers started the meeting.

Later, he said he was "angry and scared."

"We've had three murders in very short order. The alderman is not here; he said he was going to be here. I'm very upset. ... It's at times like this that the alderman needs to show leadership," Richardson said.

Ald. Joe Moore (49th) said in a newsletter to constituents last week that he would be at the meeting.

Bob Fuller, one of the alderman's aides, said he was there on Moore's behalf, telling attendees that the alderman decided to skip the meeting so he wouldn't distract from the conversation between police officers and residents.

Moore said in an email late Thursday that he would be availble to meet personally with anyone who wanted to share their concerns with him. He said he planned to hold a larger community meeting in June.

Others criticized Rogers Park Police District Cmdr. Thomas Waldera for not attending the meeting.

Officer Mike Stachula said Waldera decided to spend the night on the street, coordinating police operations.

"He felt he needed to be out there tonight, and that's where he's at," Stachula said.

Most residents, like Odalo Ohike, said they feared for their safety.

The 36-year-old defense attorney, who lives north of Howard Street, said the "uptick in violent activity" was obvious.

"I'm scared sh--less, to be honest with you. I don't want to get shot," he said. "I fear that I could be a victim, an innocent person getting shot."

Ohike said he especially feared what the warmer summer months might bring.

Another woman — who has lived north of Howard for 36 years — said she couldn't remember a time when violence was worse than it is now.

"I have never felt as afraid on the streets as I do now," she said.

Stachula said Chicago Police had increased both uniformed and undercover officers on Howard.

He denied there was a gang war playing out in the neighborhood.

In the past, police officials have attributed gun violence to a long-standing gang conflict between two factions of the Gangster Disciples street gang, one with territory on Howard Street and another with territory on Morse Avenue to the south.

"There is no gang war going on out there," he said. "Individuals have just decided to shoot. ... We will catch them."

But Villanueva, whose son was murdered, said he did not "have high expectations" that would happen.

No one has been charged with his son's murder, and no one had been charged in the neighborhood's other homicides, including the broad daylight killing of 17-year-old Markeyo Carr earlier this year.

"I'm the one who lost a 30-year-old son," he told officers and residents, with anger and sadness in his voice. "I'm feeling the pain."

As Villanueva finished speaking, a woman stood and embraced him.