CHICAGO — In Chicago’s Hyde Park, community leaders vowed Wednesday night to improve safety in a neighborhood shaken by two bursts of gun violence on Tuesday.
Following the shooting death of a recent University of Chicago graduate Shaoxiong “Dennis” Zheng, and another shooting in the neighborhood’s business district, officials are working on new public safety strategies. The move comes as University of Chicago students mourned a violent killing that claimed one of their own.
“The question and challenge is what do we do now?” asked Executive Director at Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce Wallace Goode.
Zheng, 24, was shot and killed Tuesday afternoon in the 900 block of E. 54th during an apparent robbery. Zheng was a student in the Department of Statistics Masters Program for two years., the university said. He graduated this past summer.
“Our community will come together soon to remember him and to honor his life,” said University of Chicago president Paul Alivisatos.
The university said it’s working with City Hall to address ongoing violence in the city.
“Yesterday, there were a number of horrific events in the Hyde Park,” said Ald. Sofia King (4th Ward).
Blocks from Zheng’s fatal shooting, another chilling act of violence saw someone open fire from inside a vehicle traveling on the busy 53rd Street business district. No one was struck by gunfire, but bullets pierced other automobiles and businesses.
“The war on poverty and the war on crime created war zones,” Goode said.
On Wednesday, more than a dozen elected officials, business owners, activists, and residents met in the business district to call for action. Among them, Hyde Park’s “Honorary Mayor” Mario Smith, a radio host and poet, who made it clear that the community would have the last word.
“This will not be our epitaph,” he said.
Anti-violence activist Tio Hardiman says it’s time for a comprehensive, city-wide plan to address volatile situations before they become violent.
“We need everyone to come together to prevent shootings on the front end,” Hardiman said.
Ald. Leslie A. Hairston (5th Ward) agreed, delivering a blunt warning to violent criminals.
“We are going to fight,” Hairston said. “You cannot poke the bear and think he’s not coming after you.”