CHICAGO — The fatal shooting of NBA star Dwyane Wade’s cousin in Chicago is part of a sharp uptick in gun violence in the nation’s third-largest city this year. Among the other innocent people caught in crossfire have been young children playing outside and a father paying bills at his kitchen table.
Wade’s cousin, Nykea Aldridge, who was shot Friday while pushing her baby in a stroller near a school, was one of nearly 20 people killed in the past week, police said.
Here’s a look at what’s happening in Chicago:
There were 449 homicides in the city between the start of the year and early Monday morning, a nearly 50 percent increase over the same period last year, police said. That’s also more than 80 percent higher than at the same point in 2014, when the city ended the year with just over 400 homicides — the least in a half-century.
Other cities, such as Los Angeles and Memphis, Tennessee, also have seen homicides rise, according to a midyear survey by the Major Cities Chiefs Association. But experts say it isn’t enough to suggest a trend, noting numbers are down elsewhere, such as Oakland, California, and Miami.
Much of the increase in Chicago homicides is related to more shootings, which have been climbing since 2013 but have spiked this year to 2,312 as of early Monday.
That’s nearly 48 percent more than in the same timeframe last year, and easily surpasses the total recorded in all of 2014, when there were 2,084.
There isn’t a clear cause.
Chicago police and Mayor Rahm Emanuel frequently point to gang violence and the easy availability of guns. The city once had some of the nation’s strictest gun-control laws, but many are no longer on the books. Last year, the police department said it confiscated nearly 7,000 illegal guns.
Others point to a loss of trust between police and the community, a long-standing problem that grew worse after Chicago police released a squad-car video in November that showed a white police officer fatally shooting a black teenager 16 times. The video of Laquan McDonald’s death set off weeks of protests.
Many of the neighborhoods on the city’s South and West sides where the violence is concentrated struggle with gang membership, high unemployment and poverty.
Police said Aldridge, a 32-year-old mother of four, was going to register her kids for school Friday when two men walked up and shot at a third man, hitting her in the head and arm. Two brothers who were on parole — one who spent six years in prison on a gun charge — were arrested and charged with first-degree murder.
Aldridge is among the many innocent people who have been hit by stray gunfire, including a growing number of young children.
In the first six months of the year, 15 children younger than 10 were shot, none fatally. That’s seven more than in the first half of 2015.
The victims included a 6-year-old girl who was drawing with sidewalk chalk when she was shot in the back with a bullet intended for rival gang members. A bullet pierced the cheek of a 4-year-old boy as walked down a sidewalk, holding his mother’s hand.
Wade, a native of Chicago’s south suburbs who signed with the Chicago Bulls in July, bemoaned what’s happening in some neighborhoods, saying “The city of Chicago is hurting.”
Associated Press reporter Don Babwin contributed to this report.