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On Sept. 20, at approximately 3:30 p.m., three young men sitting in an SUV on Custer Avenue, about one block north of Howard Street, were struck by gunfire that came from a vehicle that pulled alongside them, said Commander Ryan Glew of the Evanston Police Department. All three passengers in the SUV were taken to St. Francis Hospital.
One of the victims had minor wounds. One originally listed as being in critical condition and one in serious condition are both expected to survive, said the Commander. He said he did not know whether any of the victims live in Evanston, but said they “frequented Evanston.”
The victims ranged in age between late teens and early twenties, Police Chief Richard Eddington told the RoundTable. He said police believe they are members of a Chicago street gang that is known to police and about whom the EPD has acquired significant information. “They slide back and forth across Howard,” he said.
The Chief told the RoundTable that they believe that members of a west side Evanston street gang did the shooting. They too are known to police.
After the shooting, the victims drove the SUV across Howard and ran into a concrete planter box. Chief Eddington said one of the young men who was wounded was out of the SUV in front of a Chicago police officer and was already on his cell phone calling for his fellows “to get gunned-up and get ready to go.”
The Chief said that the two gangs have been “in conflict with each other periodically,” and they “will remain in conflict for the foreseeable future, especially given this last shooting.”
The Chief said the Evanston gang posted enough information online so that a knowledgeable person could cobble together that they were in the area, appropriately armed, and most likely the offenders in the shooting. The Chief said the department has developed several pieces of evidence and information about the shooting, but said, “Unfortunately, based on the victims’ unwillingness to cooperate with the investigation, I doubt seriously that there will ever be charges brought.”
When asked about a motive for the shootings, the Chief said that in the past, gangs would fight over street corners because of a lucrative corner where they make of lot of money selling drugs. “It is now devolved almost into an interpersonal thing where it’s this group of guys doesn’t like the other group of guys. … It’s just that they don’t like each other and they’re going to shoot each other when they cross paths.”
The Chief said the EPD is prepared to respond quickly when a shooting like this occurs in order to prevent retaliatory violence. “Based on our ability to collect and analyze intelligence, we’re able to develop a rational and intelligence-led response to these events because I know it’s [the Chicago gang] and because I know it’s [the Evanston gang], and I’m deploying additional resources that have been authorized by the City Manager to focus on areas where retaliation is most probable. Without that intelligence and information, I might be guessing and if I guessed wrong, I’d spend the same amount of money with no effect or no impact on this. The collection and analysis of intelligence is critically important.” He said the gang data base is part of it.
For the last several years, the EPD has made a concentrated effort to take guns off the street and has confiscated more than 100 guns after stopping people for traffic violations and other infractions. Chief Eddington said he thinks that “a stricter enforcement of gun laws would result in a substantial reduction in shootings. … I think if you incarcerate the serious gang members, the serious shooters, the violence rate goes down. “
He said New York has aggressively enforced gun possession laws and the murder rate and shooting rate is substantially lower than Cook County’s rate.
“I think our [Cook County’s] lackadaisical prosecution of gun crimes is hurting our efforts to suppress violence. …
I would hope at some point in time the voters in Cook County hold the County-wide officials accountable for decisions that are resulting in this continuation of gun violence. In my opinion, at least part of it would be preventable with more serious enforcement of the current gun laws.”
He said he would be surprised if the Evanston gang had more than 35 members, and if the Chicago gang had more than 50. Yet he estimates that these two gangs together have been involved in dozens of shootings and half-a-dozen homicides, including those outside of Evanston.
The Chief encouraged people to call the police if they see something suspicious, saying this is important to suppress crime.