‘No respect for the dead’: Chicago gang violence increasingly spilling into funerals

‘No respect for the dead’: Chicago gang violence increasingly spilling into funerals
Pallbearers carry the remains of six-month-old Jonylah Watkins from New Beginnings Church following her funeral service on March 19, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. Cook County is forming a task force to address gang violence in Chicago that is spilling into local funeral processionals. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Gang violence in Chicago is so pervasive that it is now spilling into funeral services. The problem has escalated to the point that Cook County has established a task force to address it, CBS Chicago reports.

What’s going on?

Sheriff Tom Dart has seen funeral processionals devolve into violent gunfights as they travel to Hillside, a cemetery where many slain gang members are buried in Chicago.

“People, literally, are jumping on other sides of the road, driving next to each other, weaving in and out of traffic, guns being waved out of cars,” Dart said. “There’s been shots fired from vehicles as well.”

Chief Joe Lukaszek referenced a recent incident that resulted in a chase and the recovery of three guns from a stolen SUV after shots were fired during a funeral processional.

Police followed the vehicle as it left the funeral and rammed it off the road before arresting the armed suspects.

“We were able to identify the car, and we started following the car after it left the cemetery so it wouldn’t create any more problems there,” Lukaszek said. “It’s getting out of control, it really is. The gangs just think that it’s a safe haven for them and they do whatever they want to do.”

Assembling a task force

Dart is attempting to assemble a task force comprised of law enforcement officers, politicians, religious leaders, and representatives of the local funeral and cemetery industries.

“These individuals will help us to determine what types of things we can put in place to ensure that people have safe funerals,” Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin said.

Local response

The task force acknowledges that there are multiple ways to approach this issue: From a law enforcement perspective and from a community perspective.

“There has to be a point where the buck stops,” the Rev. Ira Acree said. “Something has to be sacred, and we got to respect our families. Simple as that.”

Lukaszek, meanwhile, emphasized the need for support from the judicial system.

“We need our judicial system to enforce what laws are on the books,” he said. “We need our states attorneys to prosecute the criminals and put these people behind bars.”

The task force is set to be in place by May, ahead of the summertime which typically sees an increase in shootings.

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