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City panel: Drive recklessly during a funeral procession, lose your car

Mount Hope Cemetery

Mount Hope Cemetery

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Updated: November 5, 2013 6:38AM



Gang members — or anybody else in Chicago — who drive recklessly during a funeral procession could lose their wheels under a crackdown advanced Thursday to stop “idiots” from wreaking havoc on their way to Mount Hope Cemetery.

Mount Hope has long been the “cemetery of choice” for gangbangers gunned down on Chicago streets and the ride to and from the cemetery goes through Beverly and Morgan Park.

Local Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th) said that has forced his constituents to endure an array of intimidating behavior. It ranges from hanging out the window flashing gang signs, red-light running and driving into oncoming traffic, to high-speed chases down side streets, verbal altercations with other motorists, shooting out the window and throwing out loaded guns.

O’Shea said the situation has gotten better since December, when Mayor Rahm Emanuel vowed to start treating gang funerals as “gang events”— with pat-downs and police muscle.

But the aldermen said bad behavior still happens on occasion and, it “takes a lot of police resources out of other areas” to prevent it. A few months ago, a man died during a funeral procession on South Vincennes after driving into oncoming traffic.

“I don’t want police leaving my neighborhood and I don’t want them leaving other neighborhoods. But I want to make sure my community is safe,” O’Shea said.

On Thursday, the City Council’s Committee on Public Safety approved O’Shea’s latest attempt to stop the chronic problem.

It adds driving recklessly during a funeral procession to the laundry list of offenses punishable by vehicle impoundment.

Impoundment, towing and storage fees would be imposed against the owner of the vehicle. The driver would face an administrative penalty ranging from $500-to-$700.

“Gangbangers need their cars to get around to commit crimes. They’ll miss their vehicles … It will send a message to these fools: If you’re going to act like an idiot in a funeral procession and not honor the dead the way you should — if you carry on this way — you’re going to lose your car,” O’Shea said.

O’Shea’s ordinance makes no mention of gang funerals to avoid First Amendment concerns. It applies to all reckless driving at funeral processions.

That prompted Ald. Nick Sposato (36th) to say he has “similar problems” in his Northwest Side ward.

“It doesn’t really involve gangbangers. It more involves confused senior citizens,” he said.

“I have many funeral homes in my ward and many funeral homes nearby. Many funeral processions come through my ward. Often, I see somewhat confused senior citizens [who] are unintentionally getting in the middle of it.”

Last December, 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 the victim’s funeral.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that officers watched from a distance as a deceased man’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 standby to escort the funeral procession to the cemetery and watch for illegal conduct, but the burial was canceled because the victim’s family was apparently unable to pay the bill.

A few days later, Emanuel unleashed his anger about the behavior at gang funerals — and warned gang members to get used to police muscle.

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

Email: fspielman@suntimes.com

Twitter: @fspielman



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