Pair of mass shootings in suburbs offers grim reminder: Illinois and Chicago routinely rank among nation’s worst for such crimes

A rash of deadly violence across the southwest suburbs last week was the latest iteration, leaving 11 people shot to death in a matter of hours.

Four women — a mother and three daughters — were killed in their Tinley Park home Sunday morning in “an act of senseless domestic violence,” law enforcement officials said. Prosecutors have since charged Maher Kassem, the husband and father of the victims, with four counts of murder.

Twenty miles west, in Joliet, seven people were killed in two shootings on the same block. The suspect — Romeo Nance, the son, brother and nephew of the seven killed — later took his own life in Texas while being pursued by U.S. Marshals. Nance shot two other men in Will County, killing one, after he killed his relatives, according to police.

Each violent act is of course unique, but they point to a stark reality: Illinois and Chicago saw more mass shootings than any other state and city in the country over the last decade, according to a Tribune analysis of data from the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit and research group that tracks gun crime from over 7,500 law enforcement, media, government and commercial sources.

It’s an unwanted distinction, driven mostly by Chicago’s entrenched gun violence, figures show, as opposed to shootings like those in the suburbs last week or outliers such as the shooting that killed seven and injured 30 others at the 2022 Fourth of July parade in Highland Park.

A decade of violence

In the last 11 years, Illinois accounted for close to 10% of all mass shootings in the nation, with almost 490 across the state, killing 356 people and wounding more than 2,080 others.

That’s more than California, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania and New York — all more populous than Illinois.

And perhaps not surprisingly, the data points to Chicago as the main source for the grim record.

The city saw 34 mass shootings just in 2023, resulting in 27 deaths and 143 injuries, according to GVA data, which defines a mass shooting as four or more people shot in a single event, not including the gunman.

Those totals pushed Chicago into the top spot nationally last year, findings closely supported by the city’s own database, which showed 32 mass shootings.

Click on a state to see the total mass shootings, deaths and injuries within its borders over the last decade. Toggle between the categories to see how Illinois compares to the rest of the nation in mass shootings, mass shooting deaths or mass shooting injuries.

In the decade worth of data reviewed by the Tribune, Chicago tallied 234 deaths and more than 1,560 injuries in 365 shootings.

At a rate of one mass shooting every 11 days, no other city in the country even comes close. The next three cities combined didn’t have as many in the same period.

In fact, if Chicago were a state, it would rank only behind California in total mass events across the decade.

Search the table to see the total number of mass shootings, deaths and injuries in a city from 2013 through 2023.

Between 2013 and 2023, these mass acts of violence have only spiked. In the first half of the decade, Illinois saw 165 mass shootings. In the back half, there were 321 — a 95% increase.

The number of mass shootings surged to an all-time high in 2021, with a staggering 689 mass shootings recorded throughout the country.

Hover over each point to see the exact number of mass shootings in the region that year. To zero in on one region, select its corresponding box at the top of the chart.

Examining the ‘why’

The scope of the problem is clear, but the reasons behind it are less so.

Law enforcement experts have long pointed to a deadly mix including more high-powered weaponry making it to the streets and more of them being used to settle gang disputes.

In January 2023, a statewide law went into effect that banned the delivery, sale, import and purchase of a long list of so-called assault weapons in the form of certain semi-automatic rifles, handguns and shotguns. But authorities have pointed to issues with straw-purchases in neighboring states keeping Chicago awash in guns.

In Chicago, police officers recover thousands of illegal guns each year — often more than 500 per month.

Myriad factors can dictate a mass shooting’s severity, authorities say: the number of people concentrated in an area, the distance to a trauma center, the quality of the gun, the ability of the shooter, among others.

Illegal “switch” devices have also become more common in recent years. A “switch” allows for a semi-automatic handgun to be converted into a fully automatic weapon capable of spraying bullets with a single trigger pull, greatly upping the chances of more casualties in a given shooting.

One law enforcement source , familiar with CPD’s thinking on mass shootings but not authorized to speak publicly, said the random nature of mass shootings makes them especially difficult to tamp down.

“Most of these mass shootings were either interpersonal (conflicts), squabbles at a bar, (when) somebody went and got a gun and came back and fired,” the source said. “Sometimes two people get shot, sometimes four people get shot. It’s all chance.”

One of the most recent large-scale shootings occurred last Halloween in the Lawndale neighborhood near Roosevelt and Pulaski roads. No fatalities were recorded, but 15 people were wounded after a gun was fired inside a party where more than 100 people had gathered, police said at the time.

CPD officers soon arrested a suspect, 48-year-old William Groves, who was later charged with 60 counts of attempted murder, 15 counts of aggravated battery and other gun-related crimes. Police said Groves was kicked out of the party shortly before he returned and opened fire. That case is still pending.

“Though this arrest brings a measure of justice to the 15 victims and all those who witnessed this violence that night, the trauma remains,” Superintendent Larry Snelling said during an October news conference announcing the charges against Groves. “We know the lasting effect this violence has on our neighborhoods, our victims and our community members, and we will be here with you as you process this.”

Not surprisingly, parts of Chicago that experience the most overall gun violence also see the highest number of mass shootings. CPD’s Harrison District (11th) on the West Side — an area roughly bounded by Division Street, Roosevelt Road, Western and Cicero avenues — routinely sees the most violence of the department’s 22 patrol districts.

Between 2013 and 2023, the Harrison District recorded 63 mass shootings, nearly twice as many as the Englewood District (7th), which saw the second-most mass shootings, 34.

A look nationwide

Gun violence isn’t unique to the Chicago area.

In 2023, 718 Americans were killed and approximately 2,700 injured in 658 mass shootings nationwide. And these events weren’t restricted to one corner of the country: There were mass incidents of gun violence in 334 cities and 44 states and the District of Columbia.

At a rate of almost two mass shootings a day in the U.S., the names and locations sometimes seem too numerable to remember: Monterey Park, California; Michigan State University; Nashville, Tennessee; Allen, Texas; Hollywood, Florida; Philadelphia; Lewiston, Maine.

Though Chicago accounted for two-thirds of all mass shootings in Illinois last year, they’re not entirely uncommon in other parts of the state.

In March, one person was killed and 10 people were injured at a house party in downstate Macomb. In June, 23 people were shot, one fatally, in a late-night mass shooting at a strip mall outside Willowbrook in southeast DuPage County. And three people were killed and another was injured in a domestic dispute near Crystal Lake in August.

In total, there were 51 mass shootings across the state in 2023, claiming the lives of 51 people and wounding another 221.

Browse the map below to see where there were mass shootings in Illinois last year. Click on a point to see more information about that shooting.

In the Joliet case, authorities have said the suspect took his own life, but a companion case was launched two days later.

On Wednesday, prosecutors in Will County filed one count of obstructing justice against Kyleigh Cleveland-Singleton, the girlfriend of Romeo Nance.

Police allege Cleveland-Singleton, 21, agreed to speak with investigators after Sunday’s shootings, but Cleveland-Singleton “made statements in order to prevent the apprehension of the suspect,” according to Joliet police.

She is due back in court next month.