Amari Brown’s father never heard the gunshot that killed his son over the sound of the fireworks exploding above them.
Brown and his 7-year-old son were watching the July Fourth display from the sidewalk outside Chicago’s Humboldt Park when gunfire exploded around them, killing Amari and wounding a 26-year-old woman standing beside them, NBC Chicago reports.
They were just two of the many victims of gun violence in the city over the long holiday weekend. Between Thursday evening and Sunday night, nine people were killed and at least 46 wounded in shootings across the city, according to the Chicago Police.
“We need to repair a broken system,” Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy told reporters Sunday. “Criminals don’t feel the repercussions of the justice system.”
That system failed Amari Brown by allowing his father to walk the city’s streets, the police chief said. McCarthy explained that the police believe the boy was killed by a bullet intended for his father, a gang member with 45 arrests to his name.
“If Mr. Brown is in custody, his son is alive,” McCarthy said.
No one has been arrested for the shooting, according to NBC Chicago.
Among the others killed over the weekend was 17-year-old Vonzell Banks. The high-school junior was shot outside of a park named for Hadiya Pendelton, a local honor student who was gunned down just days after performing at President Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony. Like Pendelton, police believe that Banks wasn’t his killer’s intended victim. The teen’s aunt, LaShanda Childs, told the Chicago Sun-Times that Banks had gone to the park to play basketball with his older brother and friends.
Chicago Police had prepared for a violent weekend, increasing its street patrols by 30%, according to McCarthy. That greater presence failed to prevent widespread violence, but the total number of those killed or wounded by gunfire over the weekend was actually down from the same period a year ago, when 15 were killed and 69 others wounded. In 2013, 12 were killed and more than 60 wounded during the same weekend.
Jessica Disu, the lead youth organizer of Chicago’s International Youth Peace Movement, told msnbc that the perennial violence is produced by a combination of economic despair, easily accessible guns, and the heightened use of intoxicants in celebration of the holiday.
“The people who commit these crimes in my community are hopeless, and because they’re hopeless, they walk around without a focus,” Disu said. “So on holidays, when you’re drinking or taking drugs, and you’re carrying a loaded weapon that’s not even registered; you’re bound to do something that you wouldn’t want to do later, if you thought about it.”
Chicago has seen more gun violence in the first six months of 2015 than it had the year before — shootings are up 20%, with 13 more homicides this past June than in the same month of 2014, according to police statistics.
That increase comes even with 8% more arrests for illegal gun possession.
“We must stem the flow of guns into the city,” McCarthy said on Sunday, noting that over the weekend, Chicago police had recovered illegal guns at a rate of one an hour.
But for Disu, the failure of gun arrests to reduce shootings illustrates the futility of trying to combat violence in impoverished communities with law enforcement alone.
“I don’t think the answer is for the police to lock up more people in the community,” Disu said. “We need jobs, we need education. We need mentors. So if they put down the guns, we can put books in their hands.”