April 24th, 2008
03:13 PM ET

Students bear brunt of Chicago violence

Watch CNN's David Mattingly report on Blair Holt, one of 28 Chicago school kids murdered last year.
Watch CNN's David Mattingly report on Blair Holt, one of 28 Chicago school kids murdered last year.

David Mattingly
360° Correspondent

I first met Ronald Holt about a year ago. He had recently lost his young son Blair, to a wave of violence that was tearing through the streets of Chicago's southside. Blair Holt was an innocent bystander caught in a gang-related shooting on a city bus. He was killed while pulling a classmate out of harm's way. His death became a rallying point for neighborhoods demanding tighter gun laws, more economic opportunity for young people and better parenting.

Ronald Holt was one of the people leading the charge. Instead of becoming consumed by grief, he turned it into a weapon. He lobbied the state legislature hoping to restrict gun sales and he has since attended hundreds of public rallies and memorials. I returned to Chicago to find Holt at one of these rallies and I learned he has a new enemy...despair. The past year has produced very few victories.

Holt tells me he finds strength by talking to his departed son and imagines the teen encouraging him to keep going. He needs the pep talk often. So far this school year 24 students from Chicago Public Schools have been killed. That is a rate even faster than what we saw last year.

Program Note: Watch David Mattingly's report Friday 10p et on 360°

soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. gina

    It's so sad that everyday one of us dies from gang violence. We need to come together and find a way to end this. I love CHicago don't get me wrong it's the city of my birth, but I can't give my life to it for gang violence. R.I.P. David.

    November 4, 2008 at 11:38 am |
  2. Terry Chicago, IL`

    Being a native to the westside and very aware of the recent wave of violence in Chicago. It can be simply put as this......no $!!! Gangs are real....but not as real as the media portrays them. And in Chicago the police get an easy outlet by calling unexplainable murders"gang related ". Though a "gang member" may be related or involved, its not about gangs its about $. Its hard enough to find jobs in the city, mixed with the lack of jobs in low income neighborhoods you have a brewing pot for destruction. Police overly intensity, mixed with a poor mans frustration that is what has Chicago flipped upside down. Even the the so called "drug dealer" is not making money, big money makers like the projects where a bunch of 5's and 10's could be stacked have been torn down leaving even the pettiest of hustler's to sell loose cigarettes and find other means of income. When someones back is against the wall facing $5 gas and $8 cigarettes nothing sounds to irrational and violence begins to sound reasonable......In my opinion but i am just 1 man.......

    May 7, 2008 at 4:18 pm |
  3. Mike in NYC

    GiroGeezer wrote:

    "In my opinion, parents (both of them) are the problem and the solution."

    Unfortunately, in many cases it's "parent" (singular). The other one is the proverbial "rolling stone."

    April 25, 2008 at 4:33 pm |
  4. Barry IL

    Some of the Chicago slums are like mini-civil war areas. Rule of the jungle dominates the rule of law.

    April 25, 2008 at 1:26 pm |
  5. GiroGeezer from Calif

    This is a horrible situation that is occurring in all major cities in the U.S. There are many underlying issues causing the problem and we have heard and ignored them all. And yes, our political system has failed us.
    The article needs to also mention glorification of gang culture by media outlets (rap music, network TV and radio programming, video games, etc.)
    Yeah, even perhaps public school education systems.
    Public schools in America are academic institutions that should be promoting and delivering excellence in education. They are not day care or gang recruitment centers.
    In my opinion, parents (both of them) are the problem and the solution.

    April 25, 2008 at 1:07 pm |
  6. mike

    Lets face the truth, criminals will always have guns. What we need is some cops and judges with a back bone. These thugs can murder some one and be on the street in 10 years. These gangs need to be handle in the way they are accustomed, shoot them, half are in the country illegally anyway. What ever happen to the RICVO laws. This drug dealers drive around in Cadillac Escalades and don't even final a W2. It all boils down to lawyers and a criminal justice system with no

    April 25, 2008 at 12:31 pm |
  7. Mike in NYC

    Reply to Mari:

    I never mentioned the death penalty. My opinion of it is irrelevant.

    "Some of these gang members could turn their lives around. What about redemption?"

    I'm sure some of them can. And most will remain social liabilities until the end of their (usually short) lives. Either way, they have nothing to do with me, and I want nothing to do with them.

    "... but how do you older people explain how messed up our country is? Wasn’t this country your responsibility first?!"

    Actually, I don't consider myself "older." I'm thinking of my parents' generation.

    Yes, this country is messed up, and yes, the preceding generations do bear much of the responsibility. No argument there.

    How, and why, it got that way, is another discussion.

    April 24, 2008 at 9:54 pm |
  8. John

    Q: "but how do you older people explain how messed up our country is?"

    A: Liberals.

    April 24, 2008 at 9:31 pm |
  9. Mari, Salt Lake City

    Wow, Mike in NYC! Sen. Obama voted against allowing the death penalty to include gang members, AND I AGREE with him.

    Usually youth involved in gangs are young..... and we should kill them because they have killed?

    I am against the death penalty, especially for young people. Some of these gang members could turn their lives around. What about redemption?

    Most people in our country considered themselves Christians, is this what Jesus preached? "An eye for an eye"?

    Perhaps "older" people have common sense, but how do you older people explain how messed up our country is? Wasn't this country your responsibility first?!

    April 24, 2008 at 8:53 pm |
  10. Mike in NYC

    Jacqueline wrote:

    "So, so sad. What do we do about it?"

    We? This certainly isn't "my" problem.

    "He lobbied the state legislature hoping to restrict gun sales ..."

    And how many of these people were killed with legally bought weapons? My guess is, very, very few.

    Lydia Marie wrote:

    "Some of us “old geezers” are still around."

    Don't get down on yourself. "Older" people have a truckload more sense than most young people nowadays.

    April 24, 2008 at 7:26 pm |
  11. Lydia Marie

    You all may take this comment off like you've done with other comments I've tried to make to this 360 blog, but I'm going to go ahead and take my chances.

    This young lad, this boy died on my forty-fourth birthday last year-May 10th 2007. More than that, he attended the same high school, Julian-Julian Jaguars-that I attended all those thirty years ago. The shot of the front lobby, there used to be seats all along there. There was gang violence then, but 28 even in the entire city was just not conceivable.

    By the way, I never believe that it's "mistaken identity," with any of these young people. I believe that these filthy thugs know who the children are that are trying to do what's right and they make an excuse to kill them. Please don't think that it's mistaken identity.

    Also, it seems that they get these huge groups of predominantly black people protest the the gun shops, but never seem to get angry at or with the criminals-these stupid thugs who are also black (alot of times) and give them a message of warning instead of the gun shop owners.

    I've prayed many times about violence in America, particularly in Chicago? This young lad is in a grave, his life ended at sixteen. Some of us "old geezers" are still around. I don't get it. I just don't get it.

    April 24, 2008 at 5:58 pm |
  12. Fay, CA

    It's sad to hear that the murder rate has increased within the Chicago Public School system after attempts have been made to try and end the violence–a real and lasting solution appears to be hard to come by. I hope Ronald Holt can hang on and continue the fight against the people who are tearing his community apart.

    April 24, 2008 at 5:10 pm |
  13. Jacqueline

    So,so sad. What do we do about it?

    April 24, 2008 at 5:07 pm |

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