For many Chicago kids, surviving the summer means staying safe

Guns killed nearly 30 percent more kids in Chicago this summer compared to last summer. A WGN analysis of data provided by the Gun Violence Archive shows in 2016, 23 young people were killed with guns. This summer that number jumped to 29.

“You always hear about somebody getting shot down and you don’t want to be that person, so you just got to be safe and stay out the way the best way you can,” said 15-year-old Darian German, a sophomore Al Raby High School.

For German and other Chicago teens, staying out of the way this summer meant staying alive. Many teens say they had no choice but to stay inside during the summer months just to stay safe.

“You could just be going to the store and they could pull up and just start shooting,” said 16-year-old Liwayne Lee, a sophomore at Douglas High School.

“I play basketball – everyday, all day. So if I’m not doing that, I’m in the house. And that’s basically my safe way,” German said.

But multiple children were shot and killed on Chicago basketball courts this summer.

Deshawn Martin had just turned 15-years-old when he was shot in the heart in Washington Heights. He had no criminal record.

“It’s the hardest thing any mother can go through,” said Martin’s mother, Elizabeth Coats. “When I’m riding around here in the neighborhood I cry when I look at things that remind me of him I cry.”

No other city in America is killing as many children with guns. So far in 2017, 58 juveniles under the age of 18 have been killed with guns in Chicago – far more than any other city in the country.

Clifton “Booney” McFowler, an intervention specialist for Build Chicago, spends his days going corner to corner to squash conflicts among teenagers and convince them to leave the street life. He says most of the time kids will kill each other over petty rivalries – even posts on Facebook.

“You ask a child, one of these kids about the future and they say ‘Hey man, I’m not going to live to see 13, 14,’ and they actually believe this,” he said. “They have things that I never saw in my life. They got 100 round clips.”

For more information log on to these links:

To learn more about Build Chicago, visit Buildchicago.org

To learn more about Austin’s Root2Fruit non-profit, click here: https://www.facebook.com/R2Fyouth/

To support the boys who were interviewed for this story as they visit colleges, click here: https://www.gofundme.com/beyond-the-block-college-tour