BACK OF THE YARDS — After a pair of gang shootings in the 15th Ward erupted minutes apart Monday night and left two dead, Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) called on the Chicago Police Department to be more aggressive in its crackdown on gang violence.
"The department needs to go from passively engaging these individuals to aggressively going after them," Lopez said. "These are the same individuals who are routinely at the center of these conflicts. We have to rout them out and remove them from our communities. My residents simply can't take it anymore."
At 6:16 p.m. Monday, 17-year-old Jamie Cervantes and 19-year-old Leny Cervantes of the 6400 block of South Bell Avenue were found dead inside a car in the 4500 block of South Wolcott Avenue, police said.
Before police discovered their bodies, the pair had been driving north on Wolcott, Lopez said. Around 46th Street, someone from a rival gang fired shots at them.
Jamie Cervantes was hit in his midsection and Leny Cervantes was hit in his head, police said. Both were pronounced dead at the scene.
The shooting might have been in retaliation for the Nov. 8 death of 21-month-old Raiylana Vasquez, authorities said. Police found the girl in the 4700 block of South Honore Street with visible signs of trauma. She later died at Holy Cross Hospital.
Uriel Vega, the man responsible for watching the baby at the time of the incident, was taken into custody and denied bail following allegations he killed the girl by repeatedly stomping her.
The incident may have been fodder for an ongoing gang fight, Lopez said.
“That baby was connected to one gang that decided to make it their mission to retaliate against the gang of the person accused of killing that child,” Lopez said.
Chicago Police officials were not available to talk about a connection between the baby's death and Monday's shooting, but Lopez said that kind of gang violence is becoming common.
“We're seeing more of this no-holds-barred retaliatory engagement between different gangs," he said.
Around 7 p.m. Monday, a 36-year-old man and suspected leader of the Satan's Disciples street gang was shot in Brighton Park, police said.
While sitting in a car in the 2400 block of West 47th Place, he was hit in his back with a bullet from a rival gang member's gun, Lopez said.
"We're not sure what kind of weapon was used," Lopez said, "but residents said it sounded like some sort of assault weapon, because they said between 20 and 30 rounds were unloaded."
Emergency crews took the man to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he was listed in critical condition.
The block where the man lives is a hotspot for gang activity, Lopez said.
"It's a block with three particular gang houses that we've been working with [police] to try and address," Lopez said.
Over the past year, Lopez has made many public requests for more police and anti-gun laws to reduce violence on the streets.
In June, following the Orlando nightclub massacre and two shootings that involved semi-automatic guns, Lopez offered a resolution to the City Council asking state and federal leaders to support a ban on semi-automatic assault weapons.
A month later, after a gang shooting injured a 16-year-old boy and put a 34-year-old man in the hospital, Lopez declared the state of the neighborhood a “public health emergency.”
Taking a stand against gun violence that’s ravaged the South Side over the last two years, the alderman focused his energy on shutting down problem buildings throughout the 15th Ward.
The man shot in Brighton Park was on the Chicago Police Department's Strategic Subject List, which calculates the likelihood of a person to be an offender or victim of gun violence.
"His presence on the block was known by police," Lopez said.
That's far from enough, the alderman said.
"We need to have the department be more active in trying to address these individuals and make it known that whatever they're planning to do in our communities to terrorize our residents will not be tolerated," Lopez said.
"Residents are scared. It's not Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but Continuing-Traumatic Stress Disorder, where people are living in a constant state of fear, where they're not sure if they can walk onto the front of their porch without getting shot."
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