At least 17 people died and 63 others were injured in Chicago due to gun violence over the Fourth of July weekend so far. Two killed overnight were young, continuing a string of children fatally shot in recent weeks.
The youngest person killed over the weekend was 7-year-old Natalia Wallace, of Chatham. She was shot in the head around 7 p.m. Saturday in the South Austin neighborhood while outside at a family gathering.
A 14-year-old boy was also shot and killed later in the night in Englewood along with three others who have not yet been identified after four men started shooting at a large gathering, according to Chicago police. Four others were injured in the mass shooting, including an 11-year-old boy and a 15-year-old boy.
This is now the third week in a row to include the death of young children. A 20-month-old boy and a 10-year-old girl were killed in separate shootings last weekend. A week earlier, five children were fatally shot, including a 3-year-old boy.
On Sunday afternoon, several relatives of Natalia — whose nickname was Natalie, according to one family member — gathered outside her family’s home on North Latrobe Avenue, a block lined with big, single-family houses, some of them with wrought-iron gates. A group of people played basketball on a hoop set up in the street as a few apparent firecrackers went off.
A makeshift memorial was set up for Natalia outside the home. Balloons and carnations decorated a nearby front lawn. A big teddy bear and other stuffed animals were affixed to a tree along with maroon and purple ribbons.
On the sidewalk, multicolored messages scrawled in chalk read “NATALIA WALLACE 1/22/13 - 7/4/20,” “RIP,” “GONE TOO SOON,” and “WE GONE MISS YOUR SMILE.”
Linda Rogers, Natalia’s grandmother, said her granddaughter was shot while playing with other kids.
“Bullets just came from nowhere,” she said, clutching a florescent green water bottle in one hand. “Whoever did it, I wished they’d come forward.”
“She didn’t deserve that,” said Monique Wallace, Natalia’s aunt. “We can’t bring her back. But we want justice.”
Rogers said Natalia had only left the house for two minutes "and then I came out here and my grand baby (was) lying on the ground.
“Jesus, help us Father,” Rogers said in a loud sob, looking toward the sky.
Nathan Wallace, Natalia’s father, described his daughter as fun, outgoing and very caring. Family members said in school she liked math, reading and drawing. She also liked to dance, they said.
“Just being outside and doing what every other kid would do, and for your life to be cut down short like that ... It takes a toll on all of us,” said Nathan Wallace. “I’m hurt, I’m angry, I’m sad, disappointed. It’s something that no parent wants to do. Who wants to bury your child? It should be the other way around.”
“She was outgoing. She always said I love you. I’m truly going to miss her. She was my baby,” said Natalia’s great-great aunt Shelley Fulton.”
Two police officers donning masks to protect against COVID-19 walked through the block. Nathan and Monique Wallace said the area needs more police because of the violence, not less, which has been a rallying cry for some activists since the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minnesota.
“You hear this all the time on the news,” Nathan Wallace said, “but it hits home when it’s actually somebody that you know.”
The Rev. James Stevenson, who grew up in the Austin community, said the city is experiencing “another dimension of a pandemic.”
“It’s very violent. It’s senseless. It’s uncalled for. And I think that it’s time for us to bring back the solidarity of the community and some unity and some love,” said Stevenson, pastor of Sweet Relief Baptist Church in Austin. “People got to put the guns down.”
Stevenson, who once lived on the block where Natalia was killed, said Austin had white and Black families before becoming a mostly Black neighborhood as time went on.
“We were a family. And our parents raised each other’s children. This neighbor slept at my house. I slept at that neighbor’s house. And we would have block club parties. And everybody just knew each other. And when one person was in trouble, we all were there ... It was no division. It was no adversarial activity ... But now things have drastically changed,” said Stevenson. “With the drug infestation. The unemployment. And with the lack of jobs and things of that nature, so crime is on the rise. But we’re yet still here standing trying to bring some hope and possibility of hope to this community, and to those families over here.”
Most of the shootings that occurred from 3 p.m. Thursday to 6 a.m. Sunday happened in the South and West sides, which have long experienced gun violence and gang crime. The only North Side shootings occurred in the Rogers Park district.
Another shooting with a large number of victims occurred in the Lawndale neighborhood on the West Side, police said. Six people were shot at about 1:15 a.m. after someone in a vehicle fired into a group shooting off fireworks.
A 20-year-old woman was killed, three men are in critical condition and two other men were in good condition as a result of the shooting.
The latest spate of gun violence prompted a small group of community activists to gather on a corner in Little Village Sunday morning to call for President Donald Trump’s help in restoring “law and order” to Chicago.
The city has exhausted all remedies, said activist Raul Montes Jr., who said he believes nothing can be done to stop the shootings until Mayor Lori Lightfoot agrees to work closer with Chicago police and the president.
Though the Chicago Police Department added more than 1,200 extra officers to work the holiday weekend, Frank Coconate, a political operative and activist, said this was ineffective, due to a lack of cooperation between neighborhood leaders and the police.
“It’s not the police’s fault, they’re just doing what they are told to do,” Coconate said during the Little Village press conference. “A lot of this stuff is showing you what happens when police’s hands are tied by the Mayor.”
When asked about calls to defund the police and reallocate money to neighborhood services, Coconate said “it is ridiculous.”
Belmont-Cragin resident and activist Jacqueline Baez said Chicagoans need police to feel safe in their communities. Baez also called on the Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx to institute harsher sentences for violent crimes.
The last time the Fourth of July fell on a Saturday was in 2015, when 10 were killed and 55 others were injured. This year has already surpassed 2015′s death toll with one night left of the weekend.
Within just four hours — from 11 p.m. Saturday to 3 a.m. Sunday — 36 people were shot, nearly half of the weekend’s total so far.
Lightfoot lamented the latest spate of violence on Twitter, claiming the city has made progress in slowing shootings “but we have to do better, every single one of us.”
The dispatch of an additional 1,200 officers this holiday weekend was fewer than the 1,500 deployed last year, to curtail overtime and give officers a break.
Police Superintendent David Brown also said at a news conference Thursday that the city would run “strategic missions” to recover illegal guns and work with violence prevention community groups.
An earlier version of this story included total shootings that occurred between 3 p.m. Friday and 6 a.m. Sunday. Because of the holiday weekend, shootings that occurred between 3 p.m. Thursday and 3 p.m. Friday were added to be consistent with how gun violence has been tallied in past years.