The mass shooting that wounded 15 people outside a South Side funeral home Tuesday night was most likely fueled by a longstanding war between two obscure gang factions, officials said.
At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, a Chevy Malibu pulled up to Rhodes Funeral Services in the 1000 block of West 79th Street and people in the car fired at funeralgoers on the sidewalk. The victims were also carrying guns and shot back, police said. The stolen Malibu crashed and the shooters ran away.
Violence-prevention activists said they warned the police about the potential for violence at the funeral. At a press conference Tuesday night, CPD First Deputy Supt. Eric Carter said the Gresham District Commander assigned a squad car to sit outside the funeral. However on Wednesday, Supt. David Brown said there were at least three police vehicles nearby. Two squad cars and a tactical team were assigned because the funeral involved a victim of a suspected gang killing.
But those officers were powerless to stop the drive-by shooting, said Brendan Deenihan, chief of detectives.
Surveillance video is “not graphic enough to give us personal identifiers” of the three people in the Malibu, two of whom were shooters, Deenihan said.
“People know they were going to do this. It wasn’t just random. ... We believe that there’s individuals out in the community and out in the crowd who know the shooters,” he said, echoing the mayor and police superintendent in asking for help from the public.
Late Tuesday, surveillance footage of the shooting was taken from a nearby laundromat and posted on the social media site Reddit. The footage doesn’t show the shooters, but booming gunfire is heard for several seconds as terrified people sprint east on 79th Street to get to safety.
Rev. Michael Pfleger, whose St. Sabina Church is blocks away from Tuesday’s mass shooting, said he was told the violence was the result of a conflict between rival Gangster Disciples factions.
The funeral was for Donnie Weathersby, 31, who died in a July 14 drive-by shooting in the 7400 block of South Stewart in Englewood, about a mile and a half northeast of the funeral home in Gresham.
One theory is that Weathersby’s killing was retaliation for the fatal shooting one day earlier of 21-year-old Tremoni Pace in the 8000 block of South Stewart in Gresham, law-enforcement sources said.
Weathersby was believed to be a part of the Wuga World faction and Pace, part of the Face World faction, neither of which are well-known — even to some Chicago police officers. The gang factions have been feuding for a long time, sources said.
Weathersby had served prison time for a gun-possession conviction and police records identify him as having ties to the Gangster Disciples, but Pace doesn’t appear to have a criminal record.
Top cop: End cycle of violence
At a news conference with the mayor Wednesday, Brown said Chicago has 117,000 gang members divided into 55 major gangs and 747 factions with 2,500 “subsets of those factions.”
Any day of the week, any hour of the day, Chicago has “several hundred gang conflicts,” he said, and the cycle repeats: someone is shot and someone else “picks up a gun and retaliates.”
He said that cycle of violence ends when people reach for a phone to call detectives with information about crimes like Tuesday’s mass shooting.
“It ends when someone does not reach for a gun,” Brown said. “That’s real justice — not revenge.”
Contributing: Fran Spielman