In a city where shooting is routine, residents unruffled by gunfire
on November 17, 2009
Shots rang out just after lunch—a fusillade of disorienting blasts that made patrons at a Mexican deli dive for cover.
Witnesses said a shooter in a car on 23rd Street opened fire at another car. Both cars then sped off.
Workers at other local businesses on bustling 23rd Street were rattled for minutes, not hours, on this mid-September day.
Seconds after the small-arms fire ceased, people milled about the sidewalks to survey the aftermath, briefly recount what just happened, who was where, etc. For three student reporters coincidentally on scene, stunned disbelief quickly morphed into a scramble to ask questions and take video of shell casings.
In a city routinely ranked as one of the nation’s most violent, spates of gunfire are all too familiar. (See related story on frequency of local gunfire.)
“We have gunfire in this city virtually every day,” said Devone Boggan, director of the city’s Office of Neighborhood Safety, an organization founded in 2007 as another tool to combat the city’s persistent violence. “All too often, it hits somebody’s flesh.”
But on that September day, there were no human casualties.
One automobile was not so lucky.
Minutes after the incident, a man parked his SUV and bolted out the door and onto the sidewalk. He was agitated, saying that he was inadvertently caught in the crossfire.
A quarter-sized bullet hole in his driver-side door corroborated his account.
Leland Johnson, a patron at Pepito’s Deli who had been affably chatting about his favorite restaurant, belly-flopped onto the concrete when the shots burst out.
Shaken, he left without his meal after the gunfire stopped.
All that was left was the lingering aroma of gunpowder. That and the shell casings strewn across 23rd Street, nudged to and fro by steady traffic.
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