Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Wednesday called on witnesses to come forward with information about an overnight gunfight at a funeral and the shooting of a toddler, as the federal government stepped in to help the city curb a surge in violent crimes.
Mayor of Chicago Lori Lightfoot speaks at the U.S. Conference of Mayors 88th Winter Meeting in Washington, U.S., January 23, 2020. REUTERS/Joshua RobertsHours after Lightfoot pleaded for an end to Chicago’s “carnage” of gang violence, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that officers from the FBI and other federal agencies would reinforce the prosecution of criminals in the city.
Trump’s announcement followed an alarming night of violence in Chicago which included a gun battle between gang members at a funeral that wounded 15 people and the shooting of a 3-year-old girl, who was shot in the head but is expected to survive.
Trump has sought to promote a law-and-order message ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election, targeting cities controlled by Democrats. Critics say the administration is seeking to divert attention away from its widely criticized response to the coronavirus pandemic, one of the reasons he is trailing Democratic challenger Joe Biden in opinion polls.
At a news conference, Trump criticized Chicago politicians for what he characterized as “deadly,” soft-on-crime policies and cited the recent spate of violence, including over the July 4 weekend, when 87 people were wounded by gunfire in the city and 17 were killed.
“For those people in Chicago and other cities where we’ll be: Help is on its way,” Trump said.
Trump had threatened earlier this week to send federal agents to Chicago, New York and other cities, sparking concern that the deployments would be similar to actions taken in Portland, Oregon, where federal agents without identifying badges have been accused of pulling protesters into unmarked vans, a possible violation of their civil rights.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr told the briefing that the reinforcements to Chicago were part of a program called “Operation Legend.” The program was started this month to provide federal aid to officials in Kansas City, Missouri, in combating traditional violent crimes, and does not involve the paramilitary-type forces deployed to counter protesters in Portland.
The effort in Chicago will include 100 investigators from the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), more than 100 members of the U.S. Marshals Service Great Lakes Task Force and some 100 agents from a unit of the Department of Homeland Security already stationed in Chicago, the Justice Department said.
On Tuesday, Lightfoot had threatened to sue Trump if he sent unidentified federal agents to her city.
“The Trump administration is not going to foolishly deploy unnamed agents to the streets of Chicago,” she said as she outlined plans for an influx of identified agents from the FBI and other agencies to combat crime. “We have information that allows us to say, at least at this point, that we don’t see a Portland-style deployment coming to Chicago.”
Chicago has seen an explosion in violence this summer. There were 116 murders over the 28 days through July 19, an increase of nearly 200 percent, police department data shows.
At a briefing earlier on Wednesday, Lightfoot pleaded with her constituents to help the city “end this carnage,” noting that the funeral involved in the shooting had been for a victim of gang violence himself.
Police superintendent David Brown blamed turf battles among the roughly 117,000 gang members in the city of 2.7 million people, where one shooting begets another in an endless cycle of revenge.
Related CoverageTrump announces surge of federal agents into Chicago, Albuquerque to combat crimeCourt documents reveal secretive federal unit deployed for 'Operation Diligent Valor' in OregonSee more stories “This same cycle repeats itself over and over and over again. This cycle is fueled by street gangs, guns and drugs,” he said at the briefing. “Too many people in Chicago have been touched by gun violence.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday that he told Trump that his state was able and prepared to handle a spike in crime in New York City, noting that he had not declared a public safety emergency.
“And since the state hasn’t made a declaration, I don’t see why there’s any reason why the federal government should take action,” Cuomo said in a call with reporters, adding that Trump agreed with his assessment.