Autry Phillips runs a community outreach center on a block in Gresham where people like to gather on the street and catch up with each other.
“It’s a good thing to do,” Phillips said. “We want people hanging out on our block.”
And that’s what people were doing Wednesday, standing and talking near a food mart at 79th and Justine streets when a silver car pulled out from an alley and three gunman opened fire shortly after noon.
Five people were hit, four men and a woman. Three of the victims were listed in critical condition as they were taken to hospitals. They ranged in age from 27 to 50.
It was the second mass shooting in Chicago in a day.
Hours earlier, four women and a man were shot in West Garfield Park on the West Side. As in Gresham, they were gathered on a sidewalk in the 4600 block of West Monroe Street when someone approached with a gun and shot them shortly after midnight, police said.
Authorities released no other details, other than the victims were between 18 and 34 and were all in good condition.
There have been at least 31 shootings across Chicago this year involving four or more victims, according to a Sun-Times analysis of city data. The city is on pace to surpass the total from all of last year, 48.
Wednesday was the fifth time this year where there have been two mass shootings in a single day. On June 27, a pair of mass shootings on the South Side within two hours of each other left two people dead and 15 more wounded.
Wednesday’s shootings happened in the Gresham and Harrison police districts, by far the deadliest this year. The Harrison district, which includes West Garfield Park, has recorded three other mass shootings this year, while the Gresham district has been hit with two others.
Over the last five years, Chicago has recorded the most mass shootings in the nation by far, according to data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive.
“Mass shootings are becoming the norm,” said the Rev. Michael Pfleger, a longtime crusader against gun violence whose church, St. Sabina, is just a half-mile from the Gresham attack.
Pfleger said he doesn’t believe the victims of the shooting were the intended targets, noting they’re fixtures of that area who often hang out there playing cards. An infant was sitting in a stroller nearby but wasn’t struck, he said.
“It’s an area that’s known by a particular gang and I think whoever it was, they’re sending a message to that area,” he said. “And these people just happened to be sitting there and there was nobody else out there.”
The shooting happened across the street from Phillips’ Target DevCorp Auburn Gresham Community Outreach Center, an anti-violence organization that immediately began working to stop any retaliation.
“What we try to do first is to try to make sure the families are okay,” Phillips said as he watched police work behind crime tape near the food mart.
Phillips said it was troubling that the shooting happened so close to his organization, but added that these attacks can happen anywhere in the city.
“At any time at any place, anyone in Chicago can get hit” he said. “We have shootings that’s next to the Chicago Police Department, we have shootings that’s next to schools.”
The people wounded Wednesday are not gang members and were not hurting anyone, he added. “Unfortunately, someone made the decision to pull the trigger.”
Pfleger said Chicago doesn’t appear to have a comprehensive plan to address the violence plaguing the South and West sides. Meanwhile, the toll continues to grow.
“We’re burying dreams every week,” he said. “And we’re less of a city because of who we’ve lost in this city. And I don’t see anything changing.”