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Saturday, 21 February 2009

Gang tensions on the Chicago Southeast Side ended in a hail of bullets Friday as three Chicago teens died in an attack

Gang tensions on the city's Southeast Side ended in a hail of bullets Friday as three Chicago teens died in an attack that included at least one assault rifle, according to police and witnesses. It's unclear whether the victims—ages 13, 15 and 17—were targets or whether they were caught in the crossfire as bullets were fired from a moving car. At least one— 15-year-old Raheem "Chiko" Washington—had been waiting on the street corner for a friend when the shooting began, his friend said.
The other victims included Johnny Edwards, three days shy of his 14th birthday, and Kendrick Pitts, 17, who spent three months in juvenile detention for gang-related activity.Pitts and Washington attended Bowen High School. Edwards was a 7th grader at Mireles Academy, located about three blocks from the crime scene.So far this school year, at least 24 Chicago public school students have been slain. Last year, there were 26. "It's just tragic, that based on the guns that are on the streets, that three young men have lost their lives today," Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis said. No one was in custody as of late Friday, police said.

Witnesses say the shootings occurred after a boy was beaten up by teens flashing gang signs near 87th Street and South Exchange Avenue around 3 p.m. Friday. The boy left the scene after the fight, but quickly returned with armed friends, said Deonte Martin, 14, who was standing on the street corner with Washington.

Martin, who was waiting to meet another teen, said he saw gang signs being flashed from the car. "Chiko, I really think we should go," he said, urging Washington to come with him. When Washington refused, Martin took off. He made it only a block from the intersection when he heard the shots ring out.He tried to reach his friend on his cell phone, but got no answer. He ran back to the scene. "I see tape everywhere, I see blood everywhere, in [a] gangway, and then I see his jacket," Martin said.The gunman fired several rounds with what is believed to be an AK-47 before fleeing in a dark-colored car with as many as two other occupants, a law-enforcement source said. Police are investigating whether there was more than one gunman.The shootings came after a week in which gang members battled for control of their Southeast Side neighborhood, residents said. "The last couple days, there's been a lot of gang activity," said Martin, who described himself as a gang member. "We've had to fight a lot of people." The skirmishes escalated Friday when gang violence disrupted classes at Bowen. Students said tensions ran high on campus following a large brawl on the school's breezeway Friday afternoon. "Security tried to break it up, but people just kept fighting," said LaTrace Thompson, 16. "I saw a guy punch a girl. It was crazy."Police say they are investigating what role, if any, the melee played in the shootings. Officials hope surveillance video cameras near the crime scene will lead to clues, said Chicago Police Cmdr. Eddie Welch.


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