Top 8 Of '08: No. 5 - Chicago's Violent Year
By Marcus Gilmer in News on Dec 30, 2008 4:30PM
Between now and Wednesday, we're counting down the top 8 local stories that captivated us in 2008.
Violence is to be expected in a big city like Chicago, a city that saw it's murder rate approach nearly 1,000 homicides in the early '90s. While murders are down by nearly 50 percent compared to that peak, things took a step back this year. The downturn in the economy certainly had an effect on the rise of crime. Another reason? Fewer police officers thanks to a budget crunch that has prevented the city from hiring. With over 500 homicides (and counting) in 2008, it's the city's highest total in five years. But even more eye-catching were the high-profile shootings* that captured the city's attention and gave rise to new concern and has left Chicago's new police superintendent, Jody Weis, under fire.
- Hudson Murders - Easily the most high profile of this year's murders, the mother, brother, and 7-year-old nephew of Chicago native and Oscar-winning actress/singer Jennifer Hudson were murdered in late October. Julian King, Hudson's nephew, was originally reported missing, but his body was found three days later in an abandoned SUV. A search of the area also turned up the murder weapon and Hudson's former brother-in-law, William Balfour (pictured right), was ultimately charged with the murders.
- Chatham Killings - A domestic dispute allegedly led to a quintuple homicide in Chatham. Police eventually made an arrest in the case.
- Taste of Chicago Shooting - Following the annual July 3rd fireworks display at the Lakefront, a shoot-out broke out in the Loop, injuring four and killing one as thousands of people streamed towards their cars and CTA buses and trains. In spite of his claim that safety at the Taste of Chicago festival was "undisputed," CPD superintendent Jody Weis was grilled by the City Council and was one of the first major incidents to shine a light on Weis' seeming inability to lead the police force.
- Sameere Conn - 13-year-old Sameere Conn was shot and killed at a South Side grocery store in October. While sad, the shooting achieved another level of tragic when 15-year-old Sebastian Rodriguez was charged with the shooting. The M.O.? Sameere had refused to join Sebastian's gang and Sebastian had previously threatened Sameere's life.
- Kiyanna Salters - Kiyanna Salters, 17, was killed on board a CTA bus in October, an innocent victim of a stray bullet. The accused shooter, Milton Wardlaw, allegedly got into an argument with another passenger over bumping each other. Wardlaw is accused of then exiting the bus and opening fire on the bus, killing Salters.
- Police Officers Killed - It had been six years since a Chicago Police officer had been killed in the line of duty. In 2008, two officers were killed. Officer Richard Francis, a 27-year veteran, was killed in July during a struggle with a woman who had been harassing a CTA bus passenger outside the police headquarters at Belmont and Western. Then, in September, Officer Nathaniel Taylor, Jr. was shot by a suspect as he and other police attempted to execute a warrant. The shooter, Lamar Cooper, had previously served time in prison for attempted murder stemming from another shooting of a cop. Another police officer, Robert Soto, was shot and killed along with a companion while off-duty. It was an apparent robbery and while Jason Austin was originally arrested for the killings, he was eventually set free.
- Logan Square Acid Attack - A woman is accused of masterminding the Logan Square acid attack against another woman because that woman allegedly was seeing her ex-husband.
- Lane Bryant Shooting - Even the suburbs experienced their share of violence. On Saturday February 2nd, a man shot and killed five women in a Tinely Park Lane Bryant store in an apparent robbery. Another woman survived and was able to give police a description of the shooter, but as of today, despite some progress - including the exploration of connections to the Chatham shooting, he's still at large.
These homicides were no better or worse than any other murder in the city. But these killings, while also garnering headlines, offered a cross-section of a city under the gun in 2008.
(* - We're not forgetting NIU; that's coming up later.)