A man was shot and injured and another man struck by flying glass when gunfire broke out during a funeral procession at Mt. Hope Cemetery on Sept. 30, according to the Chicago Police Department (CPD).
The search for the offender continues, and 19th Ward Ald. Matt O’Shea described the crime as a road-rage incident.
Numerous safety concerns have arisen for several years at the cemetery, 11500 S. Fairfield Ave., and O’Shea called for the property, which is located in unincorporated Cook County, to be annexed to the city of Chicago.
CPD 22nd District Comm. Sean Joyce said the shooting occurred at 1:15 p.m. A red vehicle was part of the westbound procession, then blocked eastbound traffic outside the cemetery entrance.
A black vehicle approached from the east, Joyce said, and a person in that vehicle became involved in an altercation with the red vehicle.
The person in the black vehicle fired shots at the red vehicle, Joyce said, and a 53-year-old man was struck in the upper thigh. He was treated and released from Advocate Christ Medical Center.
A 30-year-old man also in the red vehicle suffered a cut on his eyelid from flying glass and was treated at OSF HealthCare Little Company of Mary Medical Center.
Joyce said the black vehicle fled north on Fairfield Avenue.
He said the funeral was for an 80-year-old man, and, at the scene that afternoon, Joyce said the motive was unclear.
O’Shea said in a mass email to constituents that it was a road-rage incident and did not occur during a gang funeral.
Funerals for gang members have been prevalent at the cemetery for many years, and residents have complained of drivers using the wrong side of the road and passengers hanging out of car windows, using profanity and flashing guns and gang symbols.
In September 2018, the CPD said, several guns were seized from a “party bus” leaving the cemetery after a gang funeral.
O’Shea said two funerals were approaching Mt. Hope when the Sept. 30 shooting occurred.
Congestion has been a problem at the 115th Street entrance, and another entrance was added on 119th Street in December 2013.
O’Shea, however, said in another mass email two days after the shooting that “operators have not routinely used” the second entrance, “allowing congestion and severe and unsafe backups on 115th Street.”
The Sept. 30 shooting, he said, “could have been avoided” if the 119th Street entrance had been used.
He hopes a Police Observation Device (POD) camera outside the cemetery helps the investigation, as well as home security video from nearby residences.
He called annexing the property a “last resort” after years of trying to address problems.
“For too long owners of Mt. Hope have ignored the serious public safety issues that are created by the high volume of processions hosted at this location in short windows of time,” O’Shea said. “Absent the presence of any municipal government, the cemetery operates without even the most basic form of regulation that any other business would have to abide by.”
Scott Troost, president of the Mt. Hope Cemetery Association, expressed sadness about the incident and said he is willing to cooperate to solve traffic issues.
“Like all of our neighbors, we at Mt. Hope are shocked and saddened by Wednesday’s road rage incident, related to traffic that occurred outside the cemetery when funeral processions for senior citizens were approaching the cemetery,” Troost said in an email. “We are committed, as always, to working with our private security team and, when appropriate, other law enforcement to maintain the safety and comfort of the mourners who entrust us with their loved ones’ burials, the visitors who come to pay their respects to the generations of Chicagoans memorialized here, and of our own staff and the surrounding community.
“If additional operational changes are needed to help the city better manage traffic on 115th Street, we are willing partners in that effort.”
In previously addressing problems, O’Shea said, he created a law enforcement group that included the CPD, Cook County Sheriff’s Police and police departments from surrounding suburbs.
He also said that cemetery owners previously used professional security and traffic management in a plan that “was working very well” for some time, but the plan was modified and now includes private security inside the cemetery but not routine traffic management on the street.
O’Shea said 12 funeral processions used the cemetery on Oct. 2, and he was in regular contact with CPD officials and Mt. Hope management; a strong police presence was in place, he said, and the manager committed to using both entrances.
He said he is working with the city’s Corporation Counsel Office on annexing the property.
“Unfortunately, it is now clear that working with existing resources in cooperation with our outstanding law enforcement partners is not enough to address ongoing public safety issues,” O’Shea said. “A clear regulatory framework is needed to protect residents.”