CHICAGO – One of Chicago's bloodiest holiday weekends in memory ended with 17 people fatally shot, including a 7-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy, and 70 more wounded, despite a concerted effort to quell the violence with an additional 1,200 police officers on the streets.
The violence was far worse than last year, when the long July Fourth weekend ended with six people dead and 66 wounded in gunfire. And the holiday weekend of violence follows Chicago's deadliest Memorial Day weekend since 2015.
After a relatively peaceful Friday, gunfire erupted around 7 p.m. Saturday. Seven-year-old Natalia Wallace was standing on the sidewalk outside her grandmother's house in Austin on the city's West Side during a Fourth of July party when, according to police, shots were fired from a car. The child was shot in the head.
Natalia's death came amid a spate of shootings around the United States that left children dead, including a 6-year-old boy in San Francisco, a 6-year-old boy in Philadelphia,an 8-year-old girl in Atlanta, an 11-year-old girl in Columbia, Missouri, and 8-year-old boy in Hoover, Alabama.
The violence in Chicago and New York caught the attention of President Donald Trump, who tweeted: “The federal government ready, willing and able to help, if asked.” Later, he returned to a familiar theme, suggesting the shootings were related to their status as so-called sanctuary cities for undocumented immigrants.
“Perhaps they will have to start changing their ways (and thinking!)” Trump wrote.
Reginald Merrill, 33, was charged with murder in Natalia's death. He was in jail awaiting a bond hearing Tuesday. It wasn't known how many, if any, arrests have been made in the other weekend homicides.
The likelihood that other suspects remain at large points to a longstanding problem in Chicago: Law enforcement’s inability to bring more homicide suspects to justice. For years, the majority of homicides in Chicago have gone unsolved and the department’s homicide case clearance rate is far lower than that of departments in Los Angeles and New York.