On Tuesday, November 30, community members, civic leaders and police and fire officials convened at a virtual Fifth Ward meeting where the conversation included an update on the victims in the November 28 shooting, how first responders triaged the crime scene that night and the role family and neighborhoods play in addressing the violence.

After recounting details of the Sunday night shooting, Police Deputy Chief Jody Wright updated the Zoom call of 40-plus people on the status of the victims. One juvenile victim remains in critical condition at a local hospital and another victim is in stable condition. Doctors released two other victims from the hospital following treatment.

Wright said the Police Department does not believe there is any continued threat to the community related to what is thought to have been a targeted shooting. “I can say in my 20-year police career, this is an event that I have never seen before. … We feel the pain of the community as well,” Wright said.

Fifth Ward Council member Bobby Burns responded with some specific concerns brought to him by community members, namely about the local news showing the victim’s body. Burns asked Fire Chief Paul Polep to help the community understand the response from firefighters when they arrived. Burns said, “We heard a lot of concern from the community about the body of the deceased young man. … Why wasn’t he taken to the hospital sooner? Why wasn’t the body fully covered?”

Polep described how the crew of the first fire engine to arrive at the scene examines victims and immediately begins triage, determining which patients are in critical condition and which patients need an ambulance. Polep said that 17-year-old Carl Dennison III had already died by the time the first responders arrived. However, that crew of eight still “worked on that patient” for 40 minutes, Polep said, continuing CPR, bilateral chest compressions, IVs, electric shock therapy and more. 

“I do apologize for that being shown on the news,” Polep said. “With everything going on, it’s very hard to control cell cameras and cellphones with cameras and folks out there trying to get a news clip to get to the news. And you know, that’s not something we’d like to see either. But I can assure you that that person was given every piece of medical care and treatment that we could provide at the time.”

During the Tuesday Zoom call, Evanstonians emphasized that the issue of gun violence is a community and family-based issue, not necessarily a police issue. 

Delores Holmes, the former Fifth Ward Council member, said, “I think that we need to begin to discuss what are we going to do as a community to help take some of these guns off of the street. These kids go to somebody’s house, every night, and sleep and eat and whatever. We have got to call it what it is.”

Community member Janet Alexander Davis emphasized that the problem she sees is family-centered. “I think some of us do know that our children may have a gun in our homes up there in their room, on the top shelf. And I think that one of the hardest things I’ve watched over the years is, it’s hard to talk to each other about the fact we know, or, you know, your kid is doing a certain thing,” Davis continued.

One theme that surfaced during the meeting is that neighborhoods are less connected from one another than in the past, and that residents should know what’s happening in and around their homes.

​​”When I began my career as a community policing officer, there were so many block clubs, I couldn’t even name them all. There were at least seven,” Officer Adam Howard said. “Currently, we only have maybe two, three block clubs. There’s no initiative; there’s no interest even to get to know your neighbors. Through this pandemic, we’ve experienced an uptake in neighbor disputes. People don’t even want to handle issues upstairs when you have a neighbor that’s playing loud music.”

The last major shooting in Evanston was March 12, 2021, on Hovland Court. Many victim services available to Evanston community members sprang up after that incident, said Audrey Thompson of the City of Evanston Community Services Department.

ECSD partnered with The Collective, a group of local youth-serving organizations and created a crisis response team. The Collective includes Connections for the Homeless, Curt’s Cafe, Erie Family Health Centers, Infant Welfare Society of Evanston, James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy, PEER Services, Youth and Opportunities United and the Youth Job Center. That crisis response team now responds when there’s community violence, and does so in less than 24 hours, Thompson said.

“Our staff has been at District 65 schools and ETHS,” she said. “From Monday, we’ll continue being there for the rest of this week. And next week. In addition to that, over the summer, we had a safe summer initiative and have about 900 contacts for young people [in] middle schools and high schools. So we communicate with them via text message. And so we have sent text messages to them, offering our support and also ensuring that they have the contact number to call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, just in case they need some additional services.”

Thompson addressed concerns about community programming. There are numerous youth programs in Evanston offered through the Robert Crown Community Center throughout the week, she said, but added that fixing the problems of violence has to start with the family.

There will be a special City Council meeting on violence prevention on December 20. This Saturday, December 4, at Mountain Zion Baptist Church, there will be a gun buyback event, an amnesty-based program meant to get guns off the street by encouraging community members to bring them in, in exchange for $100.

Debbie-Marie Brown

Debbie-Marie Brown is a reporter and Racial Justice Fellow at the Evanston RoundTable. They cover the local reparations initiative, Black life in Evanston, and the 5th ward. Contact Debbie-Marie at dmb@evanstonroundtable.com...