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'Mob' Beatings Shock Chicago - 2002-08-01

Police in the Midwest U.S. city of Chicago are yet to find a suspect in Tuesday's grisly murder of two motorists by an angry mob. Chicago had more than 600 murders last year, but these killings shocked the city.

Police said the incident began when the driver of a van appeared to lose control of his vehicle while rounding a corner on the city's South Side. The van ran across a sidewalk, up the front steps of a house, and hit three young women sitting on the steps.

As the women lay injured, a mob pulled two men from the van and killed them. At a news conference Wednesday, Police Superintendent Terry Hillard was incensed. "This was a traffic accident. We have accidents in the Loop [downtown Chicago] where people get injured, and people don't pull others out of cars and beat them to death with their feet, with fists, bricks or stones," Mr. Hillard said.

Police have one man in custody, but have not filed any charges yet. Some people have come forward to say there were at least five men involved in the beating, but no one has been willing to break what police are calling a "code of silence" in the neighborhood to say who was in the group.

The head of the local neighborhood council, Shirley Newsome, said anyone who saw the beating is probably too devastated to talk about it just yet. "These people witnessed a terrible, terrible incident. Many of them are psychologically traumatized at this point. I have talked to people in the community who have not slept since this incident," Ms. Newsome said.

On Thursday, representatives of local religious organizations passed out fliers urging witnesses to come forward, but even those handing out the leaflets said witnesses are probably hesitant to turn friends or possibly relatives over to the police.

Police said they do not know what caused the van to leave the street, but say it appears to have been an accident.

Willie Williams owns the building where the incident occurred. He said he is confident someone will come forward and talk to the police. "You have people in this neighborhood just like me. They love this neighborhood. They would do whatever they can to protect this neighborhood," Mr. Williams said.

Neighborhood residents had planned a candlelight vigil Thursday evening in memory of the two men beaten to death. The three woman injured by the van remained in the hospital Thursday.