Hull Gate, the stone entrance that leads into the heart of the University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park. | Victor Hilitski / Sun-Times
The man, 24, was shot to death near the campus, hours after a nearby block was shot up.
University of Chicago officials say they are working with City Hall on new “public safety strategies” for Hyde Park after a recent graduate was gunned down during an armed robbery near the campus, hours after a block nearby was shot up.
“We have been in close contact with Mayor Lightfoot, Chicago Police Department Superintendent Brown and other members of the Mayor’s team, along with local aldermen, and are speaking again tomorrow,” the school’s president and provost said in a statement late Tuesday.
Neither President Paul Alivisatos nor Provost Ka Yee C. Lee included any details, except to say they would be “short and longer-term.”
The statement was released hours after Shaoxiong “Dennis” Zheng, 24, was shot and killed during an attempted robbery in Hyde Park, a few blocks north of the school campus.
Shaoxiong “Dennis” Zheng
Police say Zheng was on the sidewalk in the 900 block of East 54th Street when a dark-colored car pulled up and a gunman got out shortly before 2 p.m. Witnesses told officers he appeared to struggle with the robber and a shot went off, according to preliminary information from the scene.
Zheng was taken to the University of Chicago Medical Center down the street, where he was pronounced dead. Police said the robber got back in the car, which fled west on 54th Place.
Zheng had recently gotten his master’s degree in statistics at the university after attending the University of Hong Kong, according to the school.
About two hours earlier, just blocks away, businesses and cars were damaged by gunfire. The shots were fired from a Hyundai Sonata about 12:10 p.m. at 53rd Street and South Harper Avenue, according to a security alert from the University of Chicago.
No injuries were reported, but several cars and two businesses were damaged by gunfire, the alert said. The Sonata had been reported stolen Monday, according to the alert.
Both incidents occurred in the Wentworth police district, which has seen a sharp rise in violent crime this year.
Murders are up 84% from this time last year, from 19 to 35, according to police statistics. Shootings are up 44%, from 91 to 131, and sexual assaults are up 24%, from 63 to 78.
Two University of Chicago students have been killed in gun violence this year. Yiran Fan, a 30-year-old doctoral student, was killed in January in a shooting spree that started in Hyde Park and ended in Evanston. Max Lewis, a 20-year-old University of Chicago junior, was fatally struck by a stray bullet in July while riding a Green Line train at the 51st Street station.
In their statement, Alivisatos and Lee they are “committed to doing more as a university and as an anchor institution on the South Side. This includes developing comprehensive efforts to reduce violence, and supporting Chicago’s communities in securing a safer future.”
They said the stepped-up efforts will include “mobilizing the academic and policy expertise of the UChicago community to engage with other national experts and officials in efforts to strengthen our cities and reduce the human toll of gun violence.”
Cook County Board President Preckwinkle — who lost the mayoral election to Lori Lightfoot — released a statement Wednesday noting there have been nearly 100 more homicides this year than the same time last year and asking, “When is enough, enough?”
“We need an immediate and urgent response to the violence as well as a long-term plan to address those root causes of violence,” she added, promising to reach out “to relevant stakeholders to bring everyone together and establish real world results.”
Preckwinkle, who lives in Hyde Park, did not detail what those efforts might entail or exactly who she would reach out to.