The Chicago police recovered 150 illegal guns in the days leading up to the Fourth of July, at one point averaging one an hour.
The number of cops in the street was increased by a third, working 12-hour shifts.
And after a burst of violence at the start of the weekend, the city seemed to settle down and became relatively quiet as night fell on Independence Day.
But Chiraq is not Chiraq for lack of a determined effort by its cops.
Chiraq is Chiraq because of an obscene abundance of illegal guns and a disgraceful laxity by the courts toward those who get caught with them.
At midnight, there was a report of two people shot, a 23-year-old woman and a 7-year-old child named Amari Brown.
The boy had been rushed to a nearby hospital in the back seat of a family car, cradled in his father’s lap, a bullet wound in his chest.
“I was like, ‘You cool, I know you cool,’” the father, 29-year-old Antonio Brown, would recall telling the boy.
“Yeah, I’m cool,” the boy replied by the father’s account. “I’m cool.”
Yet for all their practice with gunshot wounds, the doctors were unable to save the boy. The father had his son’s blood vivid on his white pants when detectives approached him.
“He tells the detectives, ‘I’ve got nothing to say to you,’” a police commander told The Daily Beast.
The elder Brown presented the detectives with his lawyer’s card.
“Here, you can call him,” the father said, by the commander’s account.
Antonio Brown had a lawyer because he had an open gun case.
Back in April, he had led police in a high-speed pursuit after they tried to pull him over for a traffic violation. He also matched the description from a report of a driver with a gun in his lap.
The chase ended with Brown crashing the car.
“Brown was observed by the [arresting officers] exiting the vehicle while holding a black revolver in his right hand,” the arrest report states. “Offender then turned and tossed same revolver onto driver seat of vehicle.”
One cop grabbed Brown as he attempted to flee. Another cop recovered the gun, which proved to be a fully loaded Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolver. The serial number had been defaced, but the police managed to read it and determine the gun had been reported stolen in March 2012.
The mug shot shows that Brown has various tattoos: a skull on his neck, a star between his eyebrows, and what appears to be a gang symbol on his right cheek. The arrest report notes that he is a “self-admitted 4 Corner Hustler,” the Four Corner Hustlers being one of the city’s major gangs. A records check shows that he had been arrested 45 times, including for weapons.
Yet the day after he appeared before a judge, Brown was back out on the street, having paid a $5,000 cash bond, apparently no problem for someone allegedly in the leadership of the Four Corner Hustlers. He is said by police to have been outside with his son and several fellow gang members on the night of July 4.
Amari had attended a barbecue at his grandmother’s house earlier in the day. He was now with his father when the night’s fireworks were joined by gunfire.
Police believe the bullet that struck the boy was meant for the elder Brown. The assumption was that the father was not cooperating with detectives because he figured on settling things himself.
But as an outraged Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy made clear at a Sunday press conference, the father could not rightly consider himself blameless.
Nor could the system that had left the elder Brown at liberty after the April gun collar.
“Seven-year-old Amari Brown was the unintended victim of a bullet that was meant for his father,” McCarthy said. “His father is a ranking gang member with 45 previous arrests who is not cooperating with this investigation. He has had numerous and frequent encounters with the police.”
McCarthy held a paper copy of the elder Brown’s rap sheet.
“Quite frankly, I’ve never seen anything like this,” McCarthy said. “I don’t know how many pages it is. It’s probably about 22 pages long.”
The last arrest had been the gun collar. Antonio Brown had been freed only to become the target of another gun in somebody else’s hand.
“If Mr. Brown is in custody, his son is alive,” McCarthy told a press conference. “That’s not the case. Quite frankly, he shouldn’t have been on the street.”
On display near McCarthy were 75 of the guns the police had recovered at considerable personal risk in their effort to prevent such tragedies, ranging from assault rifles to a little but deadly .25 caliber automatic.
“If you think that putting more cops on the street would make a difference, then take a look at the fact that we put a third more manpower on the street for this weekend,” McCarthy said. “What’s the result? We’re getting more guns. Well, that’s great. It’s not stopping the violence. And it’s not going to stop the violence until criminals are held accountable and something is done to stem the flow of these guns into our city.”
McCarthy can rattle off statistics that attest to how dedicated the Chicago police remain and how frustrated they must be by the continuing carnage. His cops seize three times as many illegal guns as the NYPD does, and Chicago is only a third the size of New York City.
Then come the even more troubling numbers.
In the first three months of this year, Chicago cops arrested 688 people for illegal gun possession, but 60 percent of them were back out by April. The number rose to 75 percent by June, including six who had been arrested a second time in those six months.
The bloodshed on the Fourth of July weekend had begun with the killing of 17-year-old Vonzell Banks, who had been shot in a park named after 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton. Pendleton had been killed a week after she performed at the second Obama inauguration. The gunman had been a teenager on probation for a gun charge.
Hadiya, Vonzell, and now little Amari had all been cut down by bullets intended for others.
“The list goes on and on,” McCarthy said. “This has got to stop.”
After Amari was shot, the city was rocked by a startling number of unrelated shootings, 18 between midnight and 6 a.m. The total for the weekend stood at 10 dead and 55 wounded. A vigil was held for the youngest victim, who had loved Ninja Turtles and sports and dancing.
A YouTube video featured by the Chicago Sun-Times captured Amari’s mother, Amber Hailey, raising her hands and crying out to the heavens over Chiraq.
“Mommy’s so sorry, baby!...Lord Jesus!...My baby!...I’m so sorry, Amari! Mommy is so hurt, baby!”
Perhaps ceding to public or family pressure, the father belatedly agreed to speak with detectives. But either he did not know much or he simply did not tell them.
The detectives remained convinced that the elder Brown and his fellow gang members were the intended target. The Four Corner Hustlers had battled with other gangs, and there had recently been infighting among various factions.
Meanwhile, the other cops were out in the streets, determined in the face of all the frustration, trying to do what they can until somebody does something about the guns and the courts.