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Uptown in the News  

September 19, 2007
Three murders shake Uptown neighbors
By (Lorraine Swanson)

Still numb from three murders committed within the span of one week, Uptown residents gathered as one community for a “positive loitering” event last Saturday at the corner of Wilson and Hazel, the scene of two of the homicides.

“If you guys are out here on a Saturday, I’m out here too,” 23rd District Cmmdr. Gary Yamashiroya told some 70 residents who came to updates on the murder investigations and other measures police are taking to secure the neighborhood.

Around 5a.m. Sept. 6, Phillip Larnarri, 32, who was homeless, was shot on the 4500 block of North Hazel in front of Wilson Care, a nursing home for patients with chronic mental illness. Larrnarri, who may have been sleeping on a bench outside the managed care facility, died later that day at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center from a gunshot wound to the head. Two men were seen fleeing the scene around the time of the murder, police said.

A second man, James Lane, 29, who was staying at Sylvia Center, an interim housing center on the 4500 block of North Clifton was shot in the street there about 1:30 a.m. Sept.7. Police said Lane was arguing with someone before he was shot.

Mario Bell, 25, was killed a few days later at almost the same exact spot and time of day in front of Wilson Care. An off-duty police officer who had been hired by Wilson Care after the first murder, witnessed a man get out of a taxi and fire two shots at Bell, striking him in the head around 4:45 a.m. Sept.10 Bell was with his girlfriend. The shooter got back into the taxi where there were at least two other people waiting inside and sped off.

“I think it’s very crazy,” Wilson Care-resident Danny Rupprecht said. “I don’t understand how people can do this type of thing. I’ve been offering myself as a body guard to people to walk them through the neighborhood.”

Jon Trott, who lives across the street at the Jesus People USA Christian community at 920 W. Wilson Ave., said he was concerned about the close proximity of the three murders.

“I’m concerned that homeless people are being targeted,” Trott said, before 23rd District police lined up for an outdoor roll call.

Yamashiroya told residents police are still investigating whether the first and third murders in front of Wilson Care were related.

“They don’t look related but I don’t rule that out.” Yamashiroya said.

The off-duty police officer who witnessed the third shooting was able to provide a description of the taxi to police as he trailed the taxi southbound down Lake Shore Drive in his own private car. The taxi was identified as belonging to a Cicero taxi company.

“It’s a solid lead that is being pursued. Hopefully, we’ll get a conviction,” Yamashiroya said.

Kerry Carter, the clinical director for Wilson Care, said that staff are taking extra steps to ensure the safety of its 200 residents. They have installed flood lights and two 24-hour surveillance cameras aimed at the street corner where residents say that gang drug activity has increased. Residents are no longer allowed to sit on the benches in front of the facility, and are now required to state their destination and estimated return time when signing out of the facility.

“We held in-service with residents in terms of their safety. We told them to be cautious of their surroundings and who they talk to,” Carter said.

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