A 9-year-old boy was targeted by a gang and lured to an alley where he was shot dead earlier this week in what police on Thursday called a new low in Chicago's gang violence.
Initially, police had believed that the fourth grader, Tyshawn Lee, was killed in crossfire on Monday on the city's South Side.
At a news conference in the alley where the boy was killed, Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said Lee's father was involved in a gang and that the death was linked to rivalry with another group. McCarthy said the father was not cooperating with police.
"This is a different level," McCarthy said. "These are non-combatants now being assassinated... This is an innocent child, this is a 9-year-old child, targeted, lured to this spot and murdered. This is different."
Like a number of other U.S. cities, Chicago has seen an increase in murders this year. Police reported 391 murders from Jan. 1 to Oct. 25, up 18 percent from the same period of 2014.
FBI Director James Comey said recently that violent crime may be up because police are holding back from aggressive tactics, fearful of being videotaped and accused of brutality, but other experts say the ready availability of guns, or a growing heroin trade may be to blame.
FATHER SAYS NOT IN A GANG
Lee's father, Pierre Stokes, appeared in the area after the news conference and was questioned by police. Stokes told reporters afterward that he was not a "gangbanger type" and could tell police nothing. He said he didn't know who would want to hurt him or his son.
"The only thing I can do to help is to help my son," he said. "Lay him down peacefully."
Father Michael Pfleger, a priest and social activist from the neighborhood, told reporters that in the past gang members left each other's children alone, but that the code had eroded.
"A baby was assassinated right behind us in this alley.... We have gone to a new low," said Pfleger, who offered to personally pay to relocate anyone who came forward with information but was scared of retaliation.
McCarthy, Pfleger and community leaders pleaded for people to get over their fear and to abandon the no-snitch code of Chicago's streets and come forward with information about the murder. They offered a $35,000 award.
Over the Fourth of July weekend this year, police said, a 7-year-old Chicago boy was shot dead by gang members going after his father, who allegedly is in a gang. A Chicago man has been arrested and charged in that case.
(Writing by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Sandra Maler and Eric Walsh) Photo credit: Facebook via Mirror