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City surpasses 2011’s murder total

Chicago Police Officers 1131 N. Keystone where shooting victim becomes 432nd shot killed Chicago during 2012 Sunday October 28 2012.

Chicago Police Officers at 1131 N. Keystone where shooting victim becomes the 432nd shot and killed in Chicago during 2012, Sunday, October 28, 2012. I John H. White~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 1, 2012 6:23AM

Carlos Alexander was going through his morning routine: Go to the store near his house. Get a cup of coffee and a Chicago Sun-Times.

On Monday morning, he was shot and killed on his return trip, a milestone murder in a bloody year in Chicago’s neighborhoods — a year already worse than 2011.

The 33-year-old father of four’s slaying was the 436th murder in Chicago in 2012, one more than the total for all of last year.

Two additional shooting deaths were recorded later Monday, bringing the total to 438.

The violent year has grabbed international attention. For Alexander’s family, it brought heartbreak and questions. His wife had to tell their four children — daughters ages 13 and 12 and sons ages 9 and 1 — that their father was dead.

“He was a good person. He loved his kids. He was just caught in the midst of violence that’s going on around here. He wasn’t no bad guy,” said Aaron Avery, his brother-in-law.

“It’s senseless. He just came from the store. He went to get a newspaper and some coffee.”

Alexander was gunned down in the 7900 block of South Escanaba at about 10:30 a.m. Monday, not far from his home. With a bullet wound in his left shoulder, he collapsed, gasping for air, into his sister’s arms before falling unconscious. He later died at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Nearby residents said Alexander appeared to be an innocent bystander caught up in a turf war between gang members on Escanaba and Manistee.

Alexander had wanted to flee the violence. He tended to stay indoors to avoid trouble, and was considering a move to Milwaukee, his family said.

“It’s senseless. It’s pointless. It’s kinda hard to describe,” said Alexander’s brother, Lorenzo Alexander. “Kids these days don’t have any ambition. They run the streets wreaking havoc.”

Lorenzo Alexander said his brother had been out of work for a few years and wanted to learn a trade to help give his kids better opportunities in the future.

“He didn’t bother anyone,” said Lorenzo Alexander. “He wasn’t involved with whatever’s going on around beef or problem. It was definitely a case of mistaken identity.”

A graduate of Hirsch Metro High School, Alexander watched the Bears game Sunday afternoon and planned to trick or treat with his kids this week.

On the front of the store Alexander had just left before his murder, two CeaseFire Illinois signs were posted.

One says, “Stop. Killing. People.” The other: “Don’t shoot. I want to grow up.”

“They’ve been shooting all summer long on this block,” said one resident, Denny Everett.

On Monday, Walter McLemore, 37, of the 3600 block of West Augusta Boulevard, was killed in a shooting around 1:20 p.m. on the 1100 block of West Wilson in the Uptown neighborhood, authorities said.

A separate shooting about five hours later left a 36-year-old woman dead with a gunshot wound to the chest on the 1600 block of North Spaulding Avenue in the Humboldt Park neighborhood, police said.

The city’s murder count has proved a challenge for Mayor Rahm Emanuel as it continues to make headlines.

Asked Monday how he feels about surpassing last year’s murder total with more than two months left in 2012, the mayor said, “Obviously, not good. This weekend, I called a mother, Gladys, whose son was shot. That’s, as you know, the hardest part of this job. I called another mother also [whose child was shot] to make sure that they know that they’re not alone.”

But Emanuel noted that Chicago has achieved “other milestones” on the crime-fighting front that make him proud.

“One is, overall crime is down 9 percent in the city, the single-largest drop on record. . . Second, we’re tearing down the 200th building today where gang-bangers and drug dealers hang out. Third, October’s overall homicide rate is going to drop 30 percent from last year, one of the biggest drops on record. That’s because of the tactics and strategies of our police department,” he said.

Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said the department launched a comprehensive strategy to address gang violence after murders spiked early this year. Murder has been trending downward since then.

“We’re on the verge of setting a 30-year record low for the number of murders in the month of October,” McCarthy said. “I can’t go back to the beginning of the year and change that. . . We are making progress, but it’s not good enough.”

President Barack Obama has talked about the violence in his adopted hometown, most recently in an MTV interview on Friday.

“I live on the South Side of Chicago,” Obama said. “Some of these murders are happening just a few blocks from where I live. I have friends whose family members have been killed.”

“What I know is that gun violence is part of the issue,” he said. “But part of the issue also is kids who feel so little hope and think their prospects for the future are so small that their attitude is, ‘I’m going to end up in jail or dead.’ And they will take all kinds of risks.

“If they’ve got mental health issues, are they getting the kind of services and counseling that they need early on?” he said.

“Are we making those investments in those young people so that by the time they’re 11, 12, 13, 15 ... they can make responsible choices because they feel they’ve got something at stake?”

Chicago’s homicide count has seen a general decline over the years. There were more than 900 murders a year in the early 1990s, and the city saw 601 murders in 2003.

It fell sharply to 453 in 2004 and has remained below 500 ever since with the exception of one year — 2008. There were 459 in 2009, 436 in 2010 and 435 in 2011.

This year threatens to be more than a minor spike in the statistics, though. The city got 2012 off to a bloody start with a 66 percent rise in homicides during the first three months of the year compared with the same time period in 2011.

Contributing: Frank Main, Allison Horton, Mitch Dudek

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