2 killed, 13 wounded at party on Chicago's South Side
Investigators believe the shooting was gang-related
By Katherine Rosenberg-Douglas, William Lee, Rosemary Sobol and Jeremy Gorner
CHICAGO — At least 15 people were shot, two of them fatally, inside a “pop-up party” early Sunday at a business that operates as a tow company and apparent event space on the South Side, Chicago police Superintendent David Brown said.
Investigators believe the 4:40 a.m. shooting was “gang-related,” according to a Chicago police report citing preliminary information. Officers and firefighters responded to a business at 6798 S. South Chicago Ave. in the Park Manor neighborhood, according to police and fire officials.
The report says a woman who was shot three times, including once in the head, was found dead outside the building. A 39-year-old man, with gunshot wounds to his neck and leg, later was found dead inside in a “backroom.”
The Cook County medical examiner’s office identified the woman as Rayneesha Dotson, 30, and the man as Lionel Darling, 39. Both were pronounced dead at 4:55 a.m. at the scene, according to Natalia Derevyanny, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office.
“The location is a garage/ tow yard with an attached duplex apartment, which was converted to a bar/ party area,” the report states.
Reports about the number of people shot increased from nine at 7 a.m. to 12 a short time later and as of 9 a.m., 15, with two killed. Fire Department District Chief Juan Hernandez said that’s because more people were seeking treatment at area hospitals on their own after being shot.
One of the women who was injured, who did not want her name used for fear of retaliation, described the chaotic scene to a Chicago Tribune reporter hours after she was struck by a bullet that grazed the inside of her right shin. She declined emergency medical treatment at the time but said her leg began to swell and she had a large black bruise forming around the deep cut left by the bullet.
“I’m just blessed that that’s all I got,” she said. “I was just happy that that was it. I’ve been through a few times at parties and places where someone is just shooting crazy like that ... you can’t live your life afraid all the time. I don’t want to be like, I’m not going anywhere. Everywhere you go it’s always going to be something.”
She had been out with her boyfriend earlier in the night and he said they should go home, but his friends had heard about the party and she wanted to go. She has a newborn child and hadn’t been out in “a long time” so they entered the building, where she said at least 200, possibly 300 people, already were gathered. They were only inside for 10 minutes when someone in the middle of the floor began shooting.
“I heard like probably like nine (gunshots) but I guess it was more than that, probably a lot more. I was standing in the back,” she said. “(The shooting) stopped and I wanted to run for the door, but it was a long way to go and my boyfriend said ‘do not move.’ And I’m glad I didn’t. He was right, they started shooting again.”
Brown gave a brief news conference at 9:30 a.m. outside the South Side Think Tank, where detectives with clipboards and uniformed officers talked outside the open overhead garage door, steps away from bloodstained concrete. Brown described the business as a makeshift tow company that also houses a bar and may formerly have operated as a lounge, but that now serves as an event space for pop-up parties.
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“Four guns were recovered at the scene. Our detectives are continuing to do their preliminary investigation and their interviews but several of the witnesses who were wounded are still in surgery and have yet to be interviewed so more to come as far as any kind of motive or any additional evidence,” Brown said. “We are following up on several different leads that we are yet unable to confirm.”
According to the preliminary police report, one of those weapons was found outside the business and three others were found inside. It wasn’t clear what caliber or type of gun or guns were used. The preliminary report said “several shell casings and fired bullets recovered from inside.”
Officer Jose Jara said in an email that the attack happened when, for an unknown reason, “One of the patrons began to shoot inside the building striking multiple people.” He later updated that statement, saying there was a disturbance “among several patrons and gunfire erupted striking multiple people.”
It wasn’t clear how many people opened fire. The woman who was shot said she could not be sure whether there was a single shooter or more than one.
The people who were shot were as young as 20 and as old as 44.
There was an attached garage with a bar set up inside, Brown said.
“At one point it may have been an old lounge that is obviously converted just for the pop-up party,” he said. “We don’t know what the celebration associated with this party was at this point. We’re still trying to follow up on leads on what that motive might be.”
Police spokesman Tom Ahern said the shooting took place inside the business near an open bar area. It was unclear who the recovered weapons belonged to, Ahern said.
Brown said investigators had heard a rumor that someone left and came back and began shooting, but he said authorities were “unable to confirm that rumor at this point. It’s still so early, particularly with some of the witnesses in surgery right now that we haven’t been able to talk to.”
The Fire Department called an EMS Plan 3, which automatically dispatches 15 ambulances, a district chief, media affairs, the chief paramedic, trucks and engines.
Ambulances took eight adults, both men and women, to hospitals in conditions ranging from serious to critical, Hernandez said. Police later said at least one person was in good condition, although that was not someone the Fire Department transported.
“It appeared to be some type of a party. ... It was a chaotic scene when paramedics began doing triage,” Hernandez said. He didn’t estimate the number but said there were still plenty of partygoers around when crews arrived.
Red and black balloons could be seen on the ground outside the business, along with a single shoe. The woman who was shot said she wasn’t aware of who rented the building or what he or she may have been celebrating.
“There were several vehicles that were being repaired or fixed next to it, and that’s where the party was,” Hernandez said.
Brown said police were unable to comment on whether there had been any liquor license violations or previous reports of violations from the business, but it’s something detectives will look at, working in cooperation with the appropriate city departments.
“I can just tell you it’s going to be a really deep dive ... to determine any kind of violations in the past and we’ll hold them accountable because of this incident,” he said.
Brown also said health department guidance hasn’t changed regarding the pandemic — holding a party is a bad idea in general — but the focus remains on the loss of life.
“You’re jumping the gun if you think it’s OK to be in small, closed confinements. But No. 1 is obviously life safety with this shooting, and the pandemic obviously is something that we continue to emphasize,” he said.
No arrests had been made Sunday afternoon.
“We have a lot of work to do. Detectives are really just getting started,” Brown said.
This is the second shooting with 15 people injured in less than a year. In July 2020, 15 people were shot outside a funeral home in what police described as a revenge shooting in part of an ongoing gang rivalry. Newspaper records indicate the two shootings, with 15 people injured in each, account for the most people ever shot in the city in a single event.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot took to Twitter in the hours after the shooting, saying, “It is tragic that the warmth of a spring day, at a time we all crave the company of family and friends, resulted in shooting and death.”
“The prayers of all Chicagoans are with the families of the two people killed this morning and the many others wounded following the outrageous shooting attack that occurred in Park Manor,” Lightfoot said.
She also issued a plea that someone who knows the responsible party or parties speak up and tell police that person or people’s names.
“The Chicago Police Department has teams investigating this attack as we speak, but people out there, people reading this, know who pulled the trigger last night and know where the killer(s) laid their head(s) this morning,” Lightfoot wrote.
“For the mothers who will never hear their child’s voice again, and the children who will grow up without a parent, I urge you to please support our city in this investigation so justice can be served and our families can move forward from this tragic and heart-shattering loss,” she said.
The woman who was shot and wished to remain anonymous said even though she had only been in the building for 10 minutes before someone began shooting, her boyfriend began to realize almost immediately that things could go wrong.
“He said he wanted to go home. We had been out already and I have a newborn and had a sitter so I said, ‘Let’s just enjoy ourselves.’ He looked at me and said, ‘This is dangerous.’ He knew, he said it didn’t look safe, and I was like, ‘No, it don’t.’ And that’s the last thing we said before the shooting started,” she said.
She didn’t notice she had been shot until she was safely outside and in her car. She realized first that she’d lost her coat, which had her wallet, phone and Social Security card in it. Then she felt “burning pain” in her leg. When she went to talk to officers about getting her coat from inside — it eventually was returned and all her belongings accounted for — they pointed out her injury, she said.
“It’s not that bad to me,” she said. “I feel worse thinking about the people who didn’t make it out.”
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