Homicides soar in Chicago, marking the deadliest start to a year since 1997

The scene of a recent fatal shooting in Chicago.
(Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune)

The number of homicides this year in Chicago has climbed past 100, the deadliest start to a year in nearly two decades, according to statistics kept by the Police Department and the Chicago Tribune.

At least two people were killed and 24 wounded from Friday afternoon to Sunday evening. One of those killed was Shari Graham, a 30-year-old mother of three small children who was shot in the head Friday night as she sat in a cab about two blocks south of U.S. Cellular Field.

Graham was at least the 101st homicide in the city this year. She had returned to Chicago just before Christmas. Her family said she moved back for a fresh start and had hoped to land a job as a nurse.


The next afternoon, Eric D. Henry Jr. was sitting in a car with a woman in the Gresham neighborhood when someone walked up and fired, police said. Henry was shot in the head and died at the scene just after 4 p.m. The woman was shot in the jaw and leg and was listed in serious condition.

Throughout much of February, homicides had been running at nearly double the rate for the same period last year. By Sunday evening, the total stood at 102, compared with 52 on Feb. 28 last year, according to a database kept by the Tribune. Those numbers cover all violent deaths, including a man shot by police and two people killed by a shop owner during a robbery, a shooting considered justified by investigators.

Homicide statistics kept by the Police Department cover only violent deaths considered criminal. By that measure, there have been 95 slayings this year. There hasn’t been a deadlier start to the year since 1997, when the department posted 101 homicides in the first two months.

Since then, there have been three years that the city saw more than 70 homicides during January and February. In the last decade, there hadn’t been more than 66 slayings during the first two months.

Homicides began rising sharply in Chicago in the mid- to late 1960s, peaking in 1992 with 943 before gradually declining. In 1997, the number was 796. Last year, it was 468, by the department’s measurement.

There has been an even bigger increase in the number of people shot in the city this year. As of Monday, at least 467 people had been shot, compared with 217 the same period last year — more than double, according to statistics kept by the Tribune.


By the end of last year, more than 2,900 people had been shot. That was 13% more than the previous year. The number of homicides was up by nearly 13% from 2014.

Despite being the nation’s third-most populous city, Chicago far outpaces New York, Los Angeles and every other large city in America in the sheer number of homicide and shooting victims. It fares better than some smaller cities on a per capita comparison.

Alexandra Chachkevitch, Megan Crepeau and Peter Nickeas write for the Chicago Tribune.