BRONZEVILLE — Police say two men killed during another bloody weekend in Chicago would still be alive if they had been where they were supposed to be: in jail.
During a news conference Monday to discuss shootings that left eight dead and at least 52 wounded this weekend, Deputy Supt. John Escalante said the city would be safer if violent criminals in Illinois faced longer prison sentences — and the criminals themselves would be safer, too.
Two of this weekend's murder victims, 20-year-old Carlos Harding and 38-year-old Raygene Jackson, had long criminal records that should have kept them off the streets altogether, Escalante said.
Harding had been arrested 61 times, and convicted about 20 times, police said. Many of his arrests were for low level drug possession and loitering charges, but he has been twice convicted of felony theft, police and court records indicate.
In 1995, Jackson was convicted of murder and aggravated battery with a firearm and was sentenced to 46 years in prison. He served about 20 years and was paroled in January 2015, police said.
Jackson was fatally shot in his head at 4:45 a.m. Sunday, police said. He was taken to Stroger Hospital in critical condition before being pronounced dead.
"How and why he was on the street, I don't know," Escalante said. "I don't want to victimize a victim, but if he was not out on the street, he would not have been a murder victim this weekend."
Escalante highlighted Harding's and Jackson's cases as the department once again made a plea for "outside help" to battle gun violence in the city, which has spiked dramatically in the first half of this year.
The department has long said that much of the city's violence is driven by people with prior convictions and long arrest records. About 75 percent of shooting victims this weekend were on the department's "strategic subject list," a list of about 1,500 people that uses data and previous criminal history to rank individuals on their likelihood of being involved in a shooting, Escalante said Monday.
Police brass has continually asked state lawmakers and prosecutors to keep violent criminals in jail so they won't further terrorize city streets.
"This is our frustration," Escalante said. "This is what our officers deal with day in and day out."
On Sunday night, Harding was sitting in a car with another 20-year-old man when they were fired upon, police said. Their car came to a stop about four blocks away from the crime scene, and Harding was pronounced dead on the scene with a gunshot wound to his head, police said.
Harding was last arrested on July 2, when he was charged with intent to sell marijuana in the vicinity of a school, according to police records. He has two felony convictions, both felony theft cases from 2012 and 2013, and 26 misdemeanor convictions, court records show.
Both men were fatally shot on the West Side, which was particularly bloody this weekend and accounted for 11 of the 17 shot Sunday, according to police.
The spike in West Side violence caused the commanders from the Harrison and Austin police districts to be summoned to police headquarters in Bronzeville Monday so they could collaborate with police brass on an anti-violence strategy, Escalante said.
"They'll be working on a plan this week to make sure that this violence isn't repeated," he said.
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