‘Tired of burying our children’: 4 toddlers shot in Chicago amid surge in gun violence

Four toddlers have been shot in the past two weeks during what has been one of the deadliest periods in Chicago’s history of violence against children, sparking community outrage over a lack of accountability and a long history of disinvestment in Black and brown neighborhoods.

“What was called the Windy City is now turning into the Bloody City. If we don’t stop this, then Chicago’s going to become known as not a safe place for children. Once that happens, we’ve lost the soul of our city,” said Rev. Michael Pfleger, an anti-gun violence activist and priest at Saint Sabina Church in the South Side Auburn Gresham neighborhood.

“I’ve been here 45 years, and I’ve never seen the meshing together of hopelessness, despair and anger all together at this level. Because of that, we have the fallout of unacceptable behavior,” Pfleger said. More than 100 people were shot over Father’s Day weekend, including at least 12 minors, five of whom died, according to data maintained by the Chicago Sun-Times. The Sun-Times weekend totals include incidents that happen on Mondays, while Chicago police weekend totals do not.

Jasean Francis, 17, and Charles Riley, 16, were fatally shot that Saturday evening in South Chicago, according to police. About an hour later, Mekhi James, 3, was fatally shot while sitting in the backseat of his father’s car in Austin. Amaria Jones, 13, was fatally shot inside her South Austin home while showing her mother a TikTok dance, according to family. Michael Ike, 15, was fatally shot in Smith Park. That Monday, another 3-year-old girl was also shot in Chicago Lawn.

“Our city’s collective heart breaks to hear the unfathomable news of a 3-year-old boy who was shot and killed tonight on Chicago’s West Side,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot wrote on Twitter. “There are simply no words to describe such a heinous, unconscionable act of cowardice to shoot at a toddler.”

James had been returning home from getting a haircut, according to Cynthia Williams, CEO of The Austin People’s Action Center.