Chicago, Retaliatory Gang Violence on the Rise at Funeral Services

June Williams, director of a Gresham neighborhood funeral home, worries about getting shot at work.

In the last two years, Golden Gate Funeral Home has seen several acts of violence, including an instance where a staff driver was shot.

Williams said she’s had to turn over to the police funeral home guest books signed by gang members who were attending funerals of their rivals.

Among grieving families and friends mourning their lost loved ones are revenge-seeking guests that compromise the safety of everyone at the funeral home at 2036 West 79th St., Williams said.

“Regardless of what caused the death of a loved one, I have mothers and grandmothers that are standing with me. … We deserve to be safe at a funeral,” said Bishop Larry Trotter, senior pastor of the Sweet Holy Spirit Church, 8621 S. Chicago Ave., in the South Chicago neighborhood, where a Tuesday press conference was held calling for legislation to keep violence out of funerals.

Chicago funeral home directors and activists at the conference said they are working with Sen. Napoleon Harris, D-Harvey, on writing a bill that proposes tougher consequences for offenders who commit crimes involving a weapon at funerals. The bill will mirror the stiffer penalties for certain gun crimes near schools and along designated Safe Passage routes, Trotter said.

In the last year, there have been at least 17 acts of violence at funerals, according to Bishop Tavis Grant of Antioch Network of Churches & Ministries. But churches and funeral homes don’t have the means to provide security, he said.

The violence, which Trotter said often stems from unresolved gang-related incidents involving the deceased, is a threat to the bereaved. Along with the shooting at Golden Gate Funeral Home, Williams said a visitor was stabbed at a service while standing at the casket.

But staff members at funeral homes and chapels are also at risk.

“There used to be a code amongst different types of folks,” Williams said. “You didn’t bother the people at church, and you didn’t bother them at a funeral.

“We have to be concerned when men come into the funeral home and we ask them to take off their hat,” she said. “Some of the gang members, that’s their colors, they don’t want to take them off. Or somebody steps on somebody’s foot then they’re ready to fight.”

Sweet Holy Spirit Church spokesman Sean Howard said the proposal is under review this week and is being vetted to become a bill.

Article Org: chicagotribune.com

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