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Tough talk from Rahm on cop crackdowns at gang funerals

Police are searching for weapons parking lot St. Andrew Temple Baptist Church W. Marquette Rd.  after report gun car

Police are searching for weapons in parking lot of St. Andrew Temple Baptist Church, W. Marquette Rd., after report of gun in a car at funeral for Sherman Miller, a Gangster Disciples member killed on the steps of a Church, Tuesday, December 4, 2012 . | John H. White~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 7, 2013 7:16AM

Gang funerals in Chicago will be treated like “gang events” — with pat-downs and police muscle — because gang leaders have shown “no respect” for neighborhoods where those funerals take place, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday.

One day after Chicago Police officers showed up in force at a gang funeral, Emanuel warned gang leaders to get used to it. Gang funerals will no longer be treated as sacred events.

“Where there’s a gang funeral — given that they have shown no respect for a place of worship — we’re going change how they’re going to operate. The Police Department is going to change the way they deal with gang funerals,” the mayor said.

This year, many of those gang funeral processions have ended at Mount Hope Cemetery on the outskirts of the Southwest Side. Residents are fed up with cars weaving in and out of the processions and calls of shots being fired.

A source in the Morgan Park District on the Southwest Side estimated five to 10 of the district’s squad cars are assigned to each gang funeral, representing up to 30 percent of the available police vehicles in the district.

The source estimated at least one gang funeral a week has rolled through the district for the last several months.

Other districts, as well as Chicago Police gang units, the Cook County sheriff’s office and other departments also provide officers to monitor gang funerals, the source said.

“They’re tying up resources left and right,” the source said of the gang funerals.

Still, Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th) applauded the mayor’s decision to get tough on them. Mount Hope, at 115th and Fairfield, is ground zero for the problems, he said.

“We’ve had shots fired into the air. Offenders fleeing police and throwing loaded guns out of cars. High-speed chases down our side streets. We’ve had altercations where people attending gang funerals have verbally assaulted residents,” O’Shea said.

“What these gangbangers are doing is inexcusable,” he said. “It’s got to stop to protect the residents of my community.”

Last week, a gunman fatally shot a reputed gang member on the steps of a South Side church after a funeral for another man. The brazen act of violence was shocking, even by Chicago standards.

Determined to avoid a repeat, dozens of officers, some armed with assault rifles, were assigned to monitor Tuesday’s funeral of Sherman Miller, last week’s murder victim.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that officers watched from a distance as Miller’s associates flashed gang signs and danced to rap music blaring from their cars in the church parking lot.

When the funeral ended, officers ordered them to leave. Some argued with police before they drove away.

A police helicopter was on stand-by to escort the funeral procession to the cemetery and watch for illegal conduct, but the burial was canceled because Miller’s family was apparently unable to pay the bill.

There were police cars from several departments waiting near Mount Hope Cemetery before the procession was called off, a source said.

Emanuel unleashed his anger about the behavior at gang funerals after voicing his frustration that the number of murders and shootings in Chicago is rising while overall crime is down roughly 10 percent this year.

The mayor made it clear he’s not losing faith in police Supt. Garry McCarthy or his crime-fighting strategies. McCarthy’s continued shake-up of district commanders — with 19 of 23 now replaced under his watch — is aimed at reducing shootings, the mayor said.

McCarthy recently put new commanders in the Central, Deering, Monroe and Lincoln districts. The spike in gang violence in the Deering District was such a priority, McCarthy shifted Joseph Gorman, commander of gang investigations, to become the new Deering District commander.

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