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Jackson Park Shooting: Hairston Wants to Up Penalties for Crimes in Parks

By Sam Cholke | June 24, 2014 7:42am
 Ald. Leslie Hairston is proposing increasing penalties for committing felonies in parks after a shooting in Hyde Park on Sunday.
Iowa Building Shooting
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HYDE PARK — Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) wants to double the penalties for felonies in parks after a fatal shooting Sunday in Jackson Park.

Hairston said at a Monday meeting at Montgomery Place, 5550 S. South Shore Drive, that she planned to introduce a measure to the City Council on Wednesday that would add parks to the list of special safety zones like schools and public transportation that allow judges to dole out harsher sentences for felonies.

“I think that this will help once these people are caught to make sure they don’t come back in a week,” Hairston said.

At 7:20 p.m. Sunday, 34-year-old Ovadiyah Chandler was fatally shot and his brother wounded at the Iowa Building, a park pavilion at 5600 S. Everett Drive.

Police Cmdr. James Jones of the Grand Crossing District said detectives believe Chandler was being specifically targeted because of the nature of his injuries.

Chandler, who was in a wheelchair, was shot twice in the head, according to police.

“The offender would had to have known the victim to walk up that close,” Jones said.

He said detectives were investigating, but had made no arrests.

Hairston has asked the Chicago Park District to close the pavilion, which is at the northeast corner of Jackson Park, at 9 p.m.

“It’s not a problem to close the park if we think it will help,” Hairston said. “It might not have prevented this, but it might prevent the next one from happening.”

Jones and Sgt. T. Ware from the Wentworth District, which patrols the lakefront north of 56th Street, both said the department was concentrating officers along the lakefront for crowd control, but such targeted shootings by a discrete gunman are difficult to predict and prevent.

“We don’t control the circumstances,” Jones said.

Police have stationed two squad cars along the lakefront, up to 14 bike officers and officers managing tunnels under Lake Shore Drive connecting Hyde Park to the lakefront. University of Chicago Police are also routinely sending their nine bike officers to the lakefront and added an additional patrol to areas of Hyde Park east of the Metra tracks last year.

“Yes, all of that was in effect Sunday night,” Ware said.

Some neighbors are asking the Iowa Building be torn down to prevent people congregating there at night.

“It is a landmark, it is something left over from the World’s Fair,” Hairston said of the structure from 1893. “The intention is not to tear it down because something bad happened, they are just going to go somewhere else, the idea is to change the behavior.”

Louise McCurry, president of the Jackson Park Advisory Council, said the group had fought for years to get the pavilion cleaned up.

“The lights are still out in the building,” McCurry said, who has worked for years to get the Park District to fix lights that are on during the day and off at night at the pavilion.

She said she kicked out a man who was sleeping in the pavilion last week and went by Sunday morning before the shooting to clean up the empty liquor bottles.

“The dime bags were everywhere, so clearly the gangs were still selling drugs there,” McCurry said.

She said she went back after police left on Sunday and found burnt charcoal that wasn’t there before and speculated that when the shooter arrived, the three men in the pavilion were barbecuing.

She said the advisory council is holding a meeting with police from the the Grand Crossing and Wentworth districts at 7 p.m. July 14 at the Iowa Building to come up with long-term security plans for the pavilion.

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