December death of Melvin Sims of Austin from injuries suffered in shooting 18 years ago ruled homicide

The December death of Melvin Sims, a West Side man who was wounded in a shooting 18 years ago, has been ruled a homicide.

Sims, 55, died at 2:20 a.m. Dec. 27, 2016 at West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

A resident of the West Side Austin neighborhood, Sims was shot 18 years ago, according to the medical examiner’s office. Chicago Police did not have information on the exact date and address of the shooting.

An autopsy found he died of complications from that past gunshot wound, and his death was ruled a homicide.

—Chicago Sun-Times Wire

After bloody 2016, superintendent promises new Chicago Police initiatives will help reduce violence in 2017

Following a deadly 2016 that saw nearly 800 homicides in the city, the Chicago Police Department has announced plans to reduce the violence in the new year.

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson | Sun-Times file photo by Ashlee Rezin

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson | Sun-Times file photo by Ashlee Rezin


Last year, five police districts on the South and West sides accounted for the 65 percent increase in murders, according to a statement from CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. There were at least 780 homicides in the city last year, according to Chicago Sun-Times records.

The majority of violence was not random, as more than 80 percent of shooting victims were identified by police as likely to be involved in gun violence, he said. Attacks on officers also nearly doubled last year, which Guglielmi said falls in line with statistics from the rest of the country.

Five districts on the North and Northwest sides saw declines in murder or remained the same, police said.

And officers were able to recover about 8,300 guns, a 20 percent increase from 2015.

CPD took more bad guys with guns off the street in 2016 than we did in 2015,” Supt. Eddie Johnson said at a press conference.
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Police release artist’s sketch of severed head found in McKinley Park lagoon

Chicago police released sketches of a person whose head was found in a bag in the McKinley Park lagoon last week. | Chicago Police

Chicago police released sketches of a person whose head was found in a bag in the McKinley Park lagoon last week. | Chicago Police

Chicago Police on Wednesday released sketches of a person whose severed head was found inside a bag last week in the McKinley Park lagoon in the hope of finding out who it is.

The human remains were found about 10 a.m. Sept. 23 at the park at 2210 W. Pershing, according to Chicago Police.

A Chicago Park District worker found the bag during a routine clean-up, a source said.

The remains of the person found were described as black, between 15 and 25 years old, police said. Investigators are unsure if they were male or female.

Police have drained the lagoon to look for further body parts.

Anyone with information on the person’s identity is asked to call police at (312) 747-8730.

—Chicago Sun-Times Wire

In the aftermath of violence, UIC study seeking ways to understand, assist the survivors of violence

Associate Prof. Henrika McCoy | UIC photo

Associate Prof. Henrika McCoy | UIC photo

By ZOE FISHER
Homicide Watch Chicago

There are numerous groups and programs dedicated to stopping the violence that is ravaging some areas of the city, but a new study at UIC aims to work on the other side of the problem — those left in its wake.

The National Institute of Justice is funding a three-year, $1.5 million study at the University of Illinois at Chicago aimed at identifying resources needed by victims of violence.

The study hopes to break down the financial, emotional and medical barriers young, Black, male violence survivors face, and ramp up the ones that are already helping them with support.

“African-American male adolescents face disproportionate risk for death or injury resulting from assaultive violence,” according to the American Psychology Association.

Thus, the survey it created is specifically geared toward 18- to 24-year-old black men, including transgender, who have experienced any sort of violence, such as hate crimes, sexual assault, physical violence, or violence in the military or prison.
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At Peace Walk and rally in Bridgeport, children send their message loud and clear: Stop the violence

Students from local catholic and public schools release balloons into the sky during June 15 peace rally in McGuane Park. | Lou Foglia/Sun-Times

Students from local catholic and public schools release balloons into the sky during June 15 peace rally in McGuane Park. | Lou Foglia/Sun-Times

By VIRGINIA BARREDA
Chicago Sun-Times

Voices echoed throughout McGuane Park as middle school children chanted in unison: “We want peace!” Some carried signs that read “Use ur brain, not ur guns”; “Stop the violence, Chicago”; and “Chicago is with Orlando.”

Don Brewer, a seventh-grader at Alexander Graham Elementary, was one of the 900 students from public and private schools who attended the first Peace Walk into Summer event Wednesday at the Bridgeport neighborhood park.

“This is all happening for peace,” he said. “People think the whole world is just shooting and badness, but to be honest, it’s not. All of these good people are here. You know, it’s love.”
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Stopping violence one day at a time: Pastors call for Easter Sunday kickoff to ‘Thou Shalt Not Murder’ campaign

A group of Chicago pastors have banded together in an effort called "Thou Shalt Not Murder," calling for Chicago citizens to lay down their weapons and participate in a day without murder on Easter Sunday, March 27. | Photo from Facebook

A group of Chicago pastors have banded together in an effort called “Thou Shalt Not Murder,” calling for Chicago citizens to lay down their weapons and participate in a day without murder on Easter Sunday, March 27. | Photo from Facebook

By BRITTANY REYES
Homicide Watch Chicago

As the number of homicides in the city continues to spike in 2016, Chicago faith and community leaders are proposing a type of cease-fire: A day without murder.

The “Thou Shalt Not Murder” campaign is calling for Chicagoans to take a stand against violence by signing a petition to ”symbolize their oath to lay down their weapons and serve as advocates for the worth and dignity of every person.”

The group hopes to serve as a constant resource to the people who take this pledge by connecting them to other organizations and individuals who are passionate about making the upcoming Easter Sunday a murder-free holiday.

The idea for a day of peace stemmed from a discussion among pastors who gather together on a monthly basis to address prevalent issues threatening their faith communities.
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Despite gloomy homicide totals, Chicago Police brass see glimmer of hope in fighting violent crime

Chicago Interim Police Supt. John Escalante

Chicago Interim Police Supt. John Escalante

By FRANK MAIN
Chicago Sun-Times

Even though homicides have spiraled to record levels in 2016, Chicago Police officials said Tuesday they’re optimistic, now that cops recently started making more street stops of potential criminals following a major six-week slowdown in police activity.

A total of 95 people were slain over the first two months of the year, the largest number of homicide victims in Chicago since 1999 and nearly double the body count over the same period of 2015 when 48 people were killed.

That number tops 100 when other deaths from the year are included, such as a fatal police shooting, homicides ruled self-defense and pending death investigations. The spike in homicides comes as the number of street stops by police plummeted from 111,831 in January and February 2015 to just 14,648 this year.

Cops have told the Chicago Sun-Times they’ve been afraid to make investigatory stops because of greater scrutiny over potential misconduct that followed the release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video in November. The U.S. Justice Department and American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois have been busy scrutinizing police practices.
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Still no answers to tragic deaths of 2-year-old Wayne Dixon and two others in 2004 East Garfield Park church arson

Two-year-old Wayne Dixon and his grandmother Phyllis Peaches were killed in fire in the 3400 block of West Madison when someone burned down the church next door in 2006. Their deaths were ruled homicides, but the case was never solved. | Sun-Times file photo

Two-year-old Wayne Dixon and his grandmother Phyllis Peaches were killed in fire in the 3400 block of West Madison when someone burned down the church next door in 2006. Their deaths were ruled homicides, but the case was never solved. | Sun-Times file photo

By SAM CHARLES
Chicago Sun-Times Wire

The names of Chicago’s youngest murder victims are often indelibly etched into the city’s collective memory: Hadiya Pendleton, Jonylah Watkins, Tyshawn Lee.

Their stories, despite similar endings, stick out in a city that routinely sees more than 450 murders each year.

But few know Wayne Dixon’s name.

The 2-year-old and his grandmother were among three people killed in their sleep on the West Side in 2004.

It was a brisk Sunday night, not terribly cold by Chicago standards. Some snow lay on the ground and a healthy southerly breeze swept across East Garfield Park.

The normally trigger-happy West Side community slept soundly and not a single shooting was reported anywhere near 3415 W. Madison St. all day.

But that night–Feb. 8, 2004–someone burned down a church.

The extra-alarm fire spread to the apartment building to the west and, ultimately, took three lives. The killer was never caught and a triple homicide that claimed the lives of a 2-year-old boy and his grandmother would go, essentially, unnoticed by the public after authorities took longer than usual to declare the deaths homicides.
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Painting by San Diego artist memorializes victims of violence along 79th Street on South Side

By BRITTANY REYES
Homicide Watch Chicago

"79th Street Matters" is a painting by San Diego artist Brian Meyer memorializing victims of violence on the South Side of Chicago last year. The painting incorporates the names of those killed in 2015. | photos provided

79th Street Matters” is a painting by San Diego artist Brian Meyer memorializing victims of violence on the South Side of Chicago last year. The painting incorporates the names of those killed in 2015. | photos provided

For a West Coast artist, what started as a conversation on Facebook turned into a special work of art memorializing the lives of victims killed on Chicago’s 79th Street corridor last year.

The watercolor painting by Brian Meyer, an artist from San Diego, California, features protesters marching together, carrying signs that read, “Stop the Violence” and “Black Lives Matter.” In the foreground, among the leafy trees and dark buildings, the names of lives lost can be read in thin black paint.

Meyer said he began the project on Nov. 14, 2015, and finished the canvas on Nov. 22, right before attending a morning Mass at 1st Church of the Brethren in San Diego. He said church members “prayed for peace in a world gone mad. We prayed for Paris, for Mali, for Lebanon, for Nigeria, but we also prayed for Chicago.”
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Vigil allows mothers to grieve with others about losing a son to violence, and gain inspiration in the process

Among the mothers taking part in the Vigil to End Gun Violence were, from right: Bouchelle Stokes, Gwen Baxter, Toneya McIntosh, Donna Hall, Shundra Robinson, Floressa Smith and "Mother" Morgan. | Kwijona Calvin/Homicide Watch Chicago

Among the mothers taking part in the Vigil to End Gun Violence were, from right: Bouchelle Stokes, Gwen Baxter, Toneya McIntosh, Donna Hall, Shundra Robinson, Floressa Smith and “Mother” Morgan. | Kwijona Calvin/Homicide Watch Chicago

By KWIJONA CALVIN
Homicide Watch Chicago

“I am not a stranger to pain. My husband and son are gone due to gun violence.”

That is the sad truth for Gwen Baxter, founder of the Greater Roseland Community Committee’s Youth Voices Against Violence, and many others who have lost loved one to violence in Chicago.

Last week, Baxter led the National Vigil for Victims of Gun Violence in Chicago at The Peace Center, where a gathering that might seem sorrowful to an outsider turned inspirational.

Women from the organization SISTERHOOD, a group of mothers who have lost children to gun violence, had the opportunity to share their personal stories about their children.

Donna Hall, mother of Marshall Fields-Hall, who was murdered at Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen at 5500 W. North Ave on Jan. 18, 2013, set the tone for the evening.
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