CHICAGO – Before Dwyane Wade has even played his first game as a Chicago Bull, he has been touched by the city’s violence.
His cousin was shot in the head and killed Friday while pushing her baby in a stroller on the South Side. Nykea Aldridge, 32, was not the intended victim. She was walking down the street after registering her children at school when police say two men opened fire on another man, unintentionally striking Aldridge. Her baby was not injured. Two men have been charged.
August is going down as the most violent month in Chicago in 20 years, as weekend shootings raised the number of homicides this year to just a few shy of all of last year.
A total of 67 people were shot over the weekend; 11 died. It was one of the deadliest weekends this year and pushed the number of homicides for the month to 84 with three days to go, according to data collected by the Tribune.
The city hasn’t had a month with 80 or more homicides since October 1996, when 85 people were killed. August of that year also had 85 homicides and June of that year, 90.
Chicago has a lower homicide rate than many other U.S. cities that are smaller. But this year, the city has recorded more homicides, 487, and shooting victims, 2,800, than New York City and Los Angeles combined.
For all of last year, Chicago had 491 homicides, and 2,988 people were shot, according to Tribune and police data.
New York, with more than three times the population of Chicago, has recorded 222 homicides and 760 shooting victims, according to police crime statistics through Aug. 21. In Los Angeles, a city of about 4 million, 176 people have been slain and 729 people shot, according to crime data through Aug. 20.
The gun violence in Chicago has been concentrated on the South and West sides that have lost population over the years as other areas have grown.
The Harrison District on the West Side, for example, has had nearly 400 people shot this year after 350 in all of last year.
The deadliest night of this past weekend was Friday into early Saturday, when four people were killed, including Aldridge.
On Sunday, Aldridge’s friends and family gathered to mourn as the sky filled with purple balloons in honor of her favorite color.
“This is my baby girl. Her life is gone too soon. Too soon she was taken away from us,” said Aldridge’s mother, Diann Aldridge.
“We’re just thankful to God that she was here on this Earth as long as she was to bring joy to our hearts,” she said. “She was an awesome, little quiet storm of a daughter.”
At least 26 more people were shot, three of them fatally, between Saturday afternoon and early Sunday morning. Three more people were killed and at least 18 others wounded in shootings from 10 a.m. Sunday until early Monday morning.
Chicago police officials have cited the constant flow of illegal firearms through dangerous neighborhoods and an intractable gang problem — with some disputes beginning on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter — as strong contributors to the city’s violence.
In recent months, police Superintendent Eddie Johnson has been pushing lawmakers at the Capitol in Springfield to pass legislation requiring harsher sentences for criminals arrested repeatedly for carrying illegal guns.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel frequently points to gang violence and the easy availability of guns from other states. The city once had some of the nation’s strictest gun-control laws, but many are no longer on the books. Last year, police said they confiscated nearly 7,000 illegal guns.
The Associated Press contributed to this report