Chicago is facing one of its most violent years on record, and the troubling statistics worsened over the weekend with the murder of two men outside a church on the city’s West Side. Emmanuel Fleming was walking up the steps of South Austin’s Friendship Baptist Church with his three young children around 11:15 a.m. on Sunday when two gunman ran toward the church and opened fire.
As the Chicago Tribune reports, Fleming, who served as an usher, was struck as he yelled for his children, all under the age of 10, to take cover, while Michael Smith, a 46-year-old visiting the church, tried to duck behind a nearby retaining wall but failed to do so in time. The men were rushed to area hospitals where they were pronounced dead.
“They were on their way up the steps to the church, and two gentlemen ran up from Jackson (Boulevard) and basically unloaded on them,” Rev. Reginald Bachus told the Tribune.
Fleming’s three kids burst through the door of the church as shots were still being fired, prompting the congregation of more than 100 people to drop down to the floor.
“The pastor was just about to get up and we heard about seven shots — bang-bang-bang-bang,” said a church member who wished to remain anonymous. “Everyone hit the floor, even the kids. It’s a shame the kids know how to hit the floor like that, but it’s a good thing they did.”
Those who witnessed the coldblooded murders said the gunmen wore bandanas to cover their faces and descended from a gas station across the street onto the unsuspecting victims. According to police, the perpetrators fled the scene in a silver or gray SUV and have yet to be apprehended.
“The victims were going to church; two individuals came up and fired their weapons, striking the individuals,” Deputy Chief Al Nagode said. “We are extremely close with our faith-based organizations over there. It certainly is a troubled area, and we dedicate a tremendous amount of resources to it … in an attempt to help the community out in any way we can.”
With a vigil for the deceased men planned for Monday, churchgoers struggled to make sense of the seemingly senseless violence.
“The kids were partially in the door, and they heard the gunfire and their father was telling them to get in,” parishioner Bruno Carter recalled. “It seems like the more people march and carry signs — and the more churches bind together to say ‘Stop the violence’ — the more they disregard it and just continue to kill.”
(H/T: Faith Family America)