Jeremy Gorner et al., Chicago Tribune, November 27, 2012
Shots rang out, causing panic and chaos as hundreds of mourners were leaving a Catholic church on the South Side following funeral services Monday for a slain reputed gang member.
As people scattered for exits, a woman knocked Deborah Echols-Moore, 59, to the floor and fell atop her. Her shoes were thrown off her feet. When she stood back up, she fled barefoot out a door.
“When I came outside, you still can hear shooting. Boom! Boom! Boom! I still ran…people was running behind me,” the longtime CTA employee said not long after the 12:30 p.m. shooting. “You didn’t know which way to go or what to do. All I knew to do was run for my life.”
Chicago police said one man was killed, another critically injured in the bloodshed at St. Columbanus Church. Police identified both as Gangster Disciples members and convicted felons, illustrating once again the high risks of gang membership in a year in which rising homicides have brought Chicago unwanted national attention.
GDs alone make up more than a quarter of the city’s approximately 470 homicide victims. About 60 percent of this year’s homicide victims were gang members, according to department statistics.
Police were still investigating who was responsible for the shooting, but investigators said the neighborhood has long been rife with conflict between GDs and rival Black Disciples.
Illustrating the sudden, often unpredictable nature of the violence, police Superintendent Garry McCarthy just a couple of hours earlier was touting the department’s crime-fighting strategies in tamping down the city’s rate of violence since earlier in the year when homicides soared. Through Sunday, homicides have risen more than 19 percent over the same period a year earlier, department records show.
Rev. Corey Brooks, a well-known South Side pastor who officiated at Monday’s services for James Holman, 32, said a church would have been off-limits for gangbangers at one time.
“Now we are living at a day and time where these younger criminals have no regard for life or for street rules,” he said.
Charles Childs, a co-owner of the A.A. Rayner and Sons Funeral Home across the street from the church, held an uneventful visitation for Holman on Sunday. On Monday he said he saw the gunman firing his weapon as he came down the front steps outside the church.
“No place is safe,” he said. “It’s just despicable.”