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Violence at gang funerals ‘has gotten way out of control’: McCarthy

Warning: Video contains strong language

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Updated: January 4, 2013 6:08AM

Sherman Miller smiled for the camera and displayed a menacing handgun with an extended clip while he and his pals rode in a funeral procession for slain rapper Joseph “Lil JoJo” Coleman this summer.

They blasted music and joked about a police helicopter hovering over their car.

“There go the police right there!” Miller said with a laugh when he spotted a squad car.

The video was later posted on YouTube.

Miller, a 21-year-old parolee, attended another funeral for a murdered man last week. Once again, he was armed with a handgun, police say.

But there was nothing funny about what happened next: Miller and a 26-year-old man were ambushed on the steps of St. Columbanus Catholic Church, where the funeral was held last Monday in the 300 block of East 71st.

Miller, a reputed Gangster Disciples member, was shot to death and the other man was seriously wounded while hundreds of mourners streamed past their bodies in horror.

“This video shows how brazen these guys are,” said Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy.

“We have been working these funerals for a while. These guys are driving in and out of traffic, hanging out of windows and have firearms. This has gotten way out of control. We have to ramp it up to make sure this behavior stops,” McCarthy said.

“It’s ridiculous,” added the Rev. Corey Brooks, who presided over Monday’s funeral for James Holman, 32, a reputed Gangster Disciples member who was shot to death on Nov. 19 near his home in the 6000 block of South Michigan.

The potential violence associated with gang funerals has drawn the attention of the police for decades.

In 2004, a funeral procession for a slain Latin Kings member even stopped to let someone in the procession shoot a rival gangster in the street.

On Jan. 14, police security was high outside the funeral for Jerome “King Shorty” Freeman, the leader of the Black Disciples, who died of natural causes. Marked police SUVs and unmarked police sedans circled the Southwest Side church, but officers didn’t report any problems there.

But things got really bad this summer — especially around Mount Hope Cemetery on the Southwest Side during burials for slain gangsters, McCarthy said.

One of those troublesome funerals was for Lil JoJo, who was tied to the Brick Squad faction of the Gangster Disciples.

The Brick Squad is in a feud with a faction of the Black Disciples linked to popular 17-year-old rapper Keith “Chief Keef” Cozart. JoJo and Keef’s associates were locked in a war of words when JoJo was gunned down Sept. 4.

On the day JoJo was buried at Mount Hope Cemetery, police received a call about shots being fired nearby at 115th and Kedzie. Gang officers, some carrying rifles, searched vehicles in the area and found a loaded .45-caliber handgun in one car. At least two people were taken into custody.

Typically, when there’s a funeral for a murder victim with gang ties — like JoJo — police are on the lookout for violence in retaliation for the murder.

But Monday’s funeral at St. Columbanus didn’t seem to fit that mold.

Police didn’t beef up their presence outside the funeral because they didn’t anticipate gang violence, sources said. And investigators don’t think the shootings that day were related to a gang conflict. Instead, they suspect Miller may have been shot on the church steps because he had been robbing drug dealers.

The targets of their ripoffs may have spotted Miller and called in a hit on him in front of the church, sources said.

Miller didn’t fire the .22-caliber pistol that was found on him, sources said.

Investigators are trying to explain why bullet casings for two other weapons — .40-caliber and 9mm handguns — were found outside the church, sources said.

No charges have been filed in the shootings at St. Columbanus, which was the home parish of mobster Al Capone’s mother and was where Barack Obama handed out food to poor families the day before Thanksgiving after he was elected president in 2008.

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