CHICAGO — Two men were fatally shot outside of a Chicago church on Sunday by an unknown gunman who charged them with an accomplice as they were walking up the steps to join the congregation for the morning service.
The shooting occurred at Friendship Baptist Church just after 11:15 a.m. According to reports, usher Emmanuel Fleming, 34, was walking up the steps with his three children when two men wearing bandanas over their faces began running toward them from across the street. Another man who was visiting the church, Michael Swift, 46, was walking behind Fleming.
One of the two running men began firing in the direction of Fleming and Swift, who quickly sought to hide behind the retaining wall. Fleming also called out to his children to find refuge inside the church. One of the children repeatedly cried out as they burst through the doors, “I want my dad!”
The congregation had been in the middle of singing a hymn, and some in the vicinity of the doors heard the gunshots and immediately hit the floor.
While Fleming’s children were able to escape the gunman’s line of fire, he and Swift were both struck multiple times and were transported to the hospital where they were both pronounced dead.
“They were on their way up the steps to the church, and two gentlemen ran up from Jackson [Boulevard] and basically unloaded on them,” Reginald Bachus, the pastor of the church, told the Chicago Tribune.
“It’s just hard for me to believe that something like this could happen on a Sunday morning,” he said. “Two young men on their way to church. … I think that’s the hardest part for me to grasp.”
The gunman and his accomplice fled in a grey or silver SUV and police are looking for information to identify the suspects.
Pastors from other area churches have expressed their shock and disgust at the shooting.
“To see my friends’ church taped off like this, I am really disgruntled about this,” James Stevenson of New Hope Baptist Church told CBS Chicago.
“We are hurting with them,” said Ira Acree, pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church. “It’s a new low for the community. It’s sad. … Some way, we as a community, we have let you down; for a church not to be a safe haven for this brother who wakes up on a Sunday morning, trying to do the right thing,”
As previously reported, statistics show that 2016 was one of the most violent years in history for residents of Chicago, as year-end figures outlined that there were 762 homicides and 3,550 shooting incidents—the highest murder level since 1996.
However, Chicago isn’t the only city that saw an uptick in homicide in 2016. CBS News reports that San Antonio, Texas saw 151 murders since last year—the highest in 20 years—and San Jose, California saw 47 murders—the highest in 25 years.