ENGLEWOOD — The fatal shooting of a 20-year-old man in Englewood Wednesday broke a string of nearly eight violence-free weeks in the two blocks where a self-proclaimed "army of moms" has been patrolling nightly.
The shooting death of 20-year-old Dwayne Thomas at 1:22 p.m. did not deter Mothers Against Senseless Killings from their occupation of the corners of 75th and Stewart and 75th and Harvard. Faye McCullough, 67, of Bronzeville, was among those who set up a tent and gathered to do yoga and barbecue with kids on the street Wednesday night.
"We'll be here. We're not afraid," she said. "We're like the front line."
She said there hasn't been a fight in the area since the group set up.
"When you figure you have results, why stop?" said McCullough.
Fewer people were out Wednesday night than usual, she said. But, she had heard from local kids that this has been the best summer they've had because of the nightly patrols and the safety they've provided.
Wednesday afternoon, 20-year-old Adriyanna Barne, a friend of Thomas, said the block had been much safer in recent weeks, and that the violence used to be "way worse."
In the two months before the "army of moms" began their patrol, the two block radius southeast of Hamilton Park had seen six people wounded and one person killed in four separate shootings, according to data obtained by DNAinfo Chicago.
The moms set up their nightly patrols after another shooting in which 34-year-old Lucille Barnes was killed and two other women were injured. At the time, organizer Tamar Manasseh said that neighbors feared retaliatory violence, so they decided to occupy the street corners every night starting at 4 p.m. to deter more shootings.
Relations with police have been "contentious," both McCullough and Manasseh said. McCullough said kids in the community trust the moms, but they don't trust police.
"Youths relate to us," she said, but there are "years and years" of mistrust between local residents and police.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said any group that comes up with "creative strategies" to keep their block safe is welcome as long as they don't take police action.
"The moms are doing a barbecue ... if that's a way, an energetic way, to keep young people engaged, give them something to do and create an environment that fosters better relations, then we are very, very supportive of that," Guglielmi said.
Guglielmi said community groups help police in the fight against violence, and residents should use anti-crime methods that are suited to the area they live in.
With more than seven weeks of violence-free summer nights, despite more than 300 people being shot across Chicago in July, Manasseh said what the group has done in its small corner of Englewood can be replicated elsewhere "with enough volunteers and community involvement."
Manasseh said she's been touched by the support from other groups who have donated supplies after the moms put out a call for help last month.
The shooting Wednesday doesn't hurt morale, Manasseh said. Instead, it "hurts in general. It's a sad thing any time we lose a kid."
They're not deterred, she said. There are "so many other lives we still have to save."
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