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As Gang War Rages, Deportation Fears Fuel Silence in Brighton: Alderman

By Kelly Bauer | May 8, 2017 1:30pm | Updated on May 8, 2017 2:46pm
 A paramedic's gloves and other supplies lay on the ground at the site of a Brighton Park shooting that killed two and injured eight Sunday night.
A paramedic's gloves and other supplies lay on the ground at the site of a Brighton Park shooting that killed two and injured eight Sunday night.
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DNAinfo/Sam Cholke

CHICAGO — A Brighton Park shooting that left two dead and eight wounded is the latest episode in a gang feud that started last year and has involved assault weapons, an area alderman said..

And Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) says he thinks members of the largely Latino area have been afraid to speak to police since the Trump administration threatened to send immigration officials to sanctuary cities like Chicago.

A string of high-profile shootings in the Brighton Park area have left three dead and 12 wounded in one week, including two officers who police said were shot with an assault rifle when their attackers mistook them for rival gang members. On Sunday, a group of people were at a memorial for a man slain earlier in the day when they were fired upon, leaving two dead and eight wounded.

RELATED: Mass Shooting Targets Mourners At Memorial, Killing 2 And Wounding 8

"This is part of a continuing and growing gang conflict that began the middle part of last year between local gangs as well as some new arrivals, and we've been working hard to try to damper that," said Lopez.

Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said investigators have a "pretty good idea of the conflict and what it's over" and they think the gunmen from Sunday's mass shooting opened fire because they were targeting their rival gang members.

"This attack was certainly targeted," Guglielmi said. "It was certainly aimed for individuals that were involved in this gang conflict."

Gang members in the area have used assault rifles since last year, Lopez said. Police have found AR-15s and AK-47s — weapons powerful enough to pierce bulletproof vests — being used in the ward, Lopez said. Guglielmi said some of those seized guns were stolen from a train yard last year, and their use has been "going on for some time."

"The gangs seem to have developed a fascination for these weapons that can do the most amount of carnage in the least amount of time, and we are working very hard to try and identify not only who's in possession of these weapons but also where they're getting them from," Lopez said. "Simply chasing them down is not enough. We have to stop them at the source so they're no longer a presence in our community."

Chicago Police officers were warned about the use of "military-style rifles that are capable of piercing police protection" in a message sent over police radio on Monday morning, according to the Tribune. Guglielmi said the warning was done "out of an abundance of caution," particularly since extra officers are working in the area.

"We're certainly seeing higher prevalence with those types of weapons used in Hispanic gangs," Guglielmi said. "We do know that in that particular area there's some gang conflict going on right now, mostly over some turf."

A "sizable" amount of gang and tactical officers will be in Back of the Yards and Brighton Park, hoping to tamp down on violence and prevent retaliation after the most recent shooting, Lopez said. Guglielmi noted extra officers had been working in the area even before Sunday's shooting, having been put in place after last week's shooting of two police officers.

Lopez is also calling on community members to speak to police, him or other officials and help them gather information about the violence.

"One of the things that is hampering our ability to address some of the local issues is the fear that is running through the communities that, by stepping forward, that immigration or federal government is [going to] know they came forward," Lopez said. The fear that has stopped witnesses from speaking out, "has been routine ever since President Trump made his threats to send in immigration to sanctuary cities."

But despite the Trump administration's hard-line approach to illegal immigrations, Lopez wants people to know they can talk to police and leaders regardless of their immigration status without fear of being deported.

Everyone will need to speak out to help "take back our communities from those who would see it destroyed," Lopez said.

Officials are "targeting those known individuals who are committed to terrorizing our communities," Lopez said. "Having the intel on who is selling the drugs, who is running the guns and who is doing the gang recruiting is of the utmost importance."

Police and officials will host an Operation Wake-up Rally in Brighton Park to help community members understand they can come forward to "put a dent" in street violence, Lopez said. The rallies are typically held in areas that have seen a spike in violence — and they've rarely been needed in Brighton Park before, the alderman said.

The operation starts at 7 p.m. Monday near 46th and Rockwell, the scene of Sunday night's fatal shooting.