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Woodlawn Residents Blame 'Problem Building' For Shooting Of 3-Year-Old Boy

By  Evan F.  Moore and Sam Cholke | June 23, 2016 10:14am 

 A 3-year-old was shot on Father's Day in the 6100 block of South Kimbark Avenue.
A 3-year-old was shot on Father's Day in the 6100 block of South Kimbark Avenue.
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DNAinfo/Evan F. Moore

WOODLAWN — Residents of a Woodlawn block say a "problem building" is part of the reason behind a recent rash of neighborhood violence that includes a Father's Day shooting of a 3-year-old boy.

Neighbors in the 6100 block of Kimbark Avenue told DNAinfo that an apartment building on the block has been a hotspot for gun violence and suspect it is connected to the June 19 shooting of the boy.

At 6:15 p.m. on that Father's Day Sunday, Devon Quinn, 3, was in his father's car when he was shot in the shoulder, said Officer Michelle Tannehill, a Chicago Police spokeswoman. The boy remains at Comer Children's Hospital with a bullet lodged in his collarbone as surgeons wait for the swelling to go down before they can operate, according to officials.

The Father's Day shooting is the most recent episode of violence on the block where neighbors say it feels increasingly common.

Sandy Mulholland has lived on the block since 1986. When the police came to her door last month and told her that her van had two bullet holes in the front hood, she knew the escalating gun violence had gotten out of control, she said.

Then, on the evening of June 19, she heard more gunshots.

"We heard a child had been shot," Mulholland said. "It has been quiet on this end of the block, but down there, we've had a lot of activity at the end of the block. The neighbors are starting to get concerned."

Ald. Willie Cochran (20th) said he's been working to address the building that neighbors say is among the sources of the neighborhood problems. Over the past few months, Cochran has talked with the owner, neighbors and police, and now believes the root of the issue is the property management company, Hallmark & Johnson, he said.

"The management company is not doing anything to address the tenants and the guests they have," Cochran said.

He said the management company refuses to evict tenants who are gang members or those who allow gang members to stay in the building. He said he's been unable to persuade property owner Cullen Davis to change property management companies because Davis owns the management company as well.

The alderman said that when he met with Davis, Davis told him he couldn't afford to add security because his contract with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide affordable housing didn't allow him to raise the rents enough to cover the costs.

In an interview, Davis denied that his tenants were the source of any violence and said they have been harassed by neighbors who are trying to blame them for the citywide epidemic in gun violence.

Davis said his property management company does evict problem tenants — but that in this case, the building just doesn't have any.

"Given the rigorous nature of our screening, we do not have much opportunity to evict tenants, as none of them have criminal records and they do not typically get arrested," Davis said. "We have evicted people when there is appropriate cause and will continue to do so."

The building was a sore spot on the block long before Davis' company bought it, and was highlighted as an example of problematic Section 8 housing in a Chicago Reporter investigation in 2012.

Davis' company Cullen Davis Development purchased the building in 2012 and spent $900,000 to renovate it as Section 8 affordable housing along with several other properties in Woodlawn.

There was hope by neighbors that the cleanup and new management by Davis' management company Hallmark & Johnson would relieve some of the problems the building and its tenants have caused in the past.

But problems have persisted, with the shooting of the 3-year-old boy the most recent example, some neighbors say. The shooting of the child was preceded by a daytime shootout in front of the building on May 24 where more than 20 shots were fired as school was letting out. An 18-year-old was shot in the leg near the building shortly before on May 17.

One neighbor, who asked that she not be identified and lives on the south end of Kimbark Avenue, said the child "was a casualty of an ongoing war."

"I honestly believe that they weren't trying to shoot the baby — they were trying to shoot at [the father.]," she said.

"Once you get to these buildings right here, the young people who no longer live here come back because they feel safe," she added.

Now the improved condition of the building is hampering efforts to address the violence around it, the alderman said. The building is well-maintained — and Cochran said that limits his ability to leverage building code violations to get some action from Davis. 

Grand Crossing District police officers declined to comment on problems on the block, but said the district held a meeting at a nearby corner playground on June 2 about the recent shootings and will meet with residents again at 7 p.m. July 28 at the South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. South Shore Drive.

No one is in custody for the shooting, police said.

Cochran said the options now are to continue negotiating with Davis and work with police as investigations continue into violence on the block. He said he is also talking to HUD about how regulations can be changed to better hold property owners accountable and work in flexibility when more security is required.

In the meantime, Cochran said the block has built a reputation as the home of a gang in Woodlawn and a target for rival gangs, putting everyone in danger.

Neighbors on the 6100 block of South Kimbark Avenue said at least 20 shots were fired by multiple gunman as school was letting out on May 24. Numerous shell casings were marked by police in front of a building neighbors say is the cause of much of the violence. [DNAinfo/Sam Cholke]

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