04/19/2012 11:26 am ET

Chicago Gang Violence: Police Witness Shooting, Chase Down Suspect After Bloody Weekend

After a bloody weekend plagued by gun violence, shootings this week suggest that firearm access in Chicago remains a significant source of the city's homicide spike.

Chicago police witnessed a man firing three shots into the head of a man laying on the ground, later identified as 58-year-old James Reddick of the 700 block of East 87th Place just before 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Gresham District officers on patrol chased down the 30-year-old suspect, who lives across the street from the victim on the block where the altercation took place, according to the Chicago Tribune. Reddick was pronounced dead at the scene, the first fatality in the Burnside neighborhood since September.

No charges have yet been filed in the shooting.

In an unrelated incident, police found Fidel Benitez Jr., 26, in an alley on the 1200 block of North Artesian Avenue around 7 p.m. Wednesday, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Benitez was rushed to John H. Stroger Hospital of Cook County in critical condition, and was pronounced dead at 7:32 p.m.

Witnesses told police an unidentified man had argued with Benitez before opening fire, then fleeing in an unknown direction, the Chicago Tribune reports. Police say Benitez had a known affiliation with the Spanish Cobras street gang and a history of arrests and felony convictions on drug charges, leading them to believe the incident was drug-related.

Authorities are investigating, but say they don't currently have a description of the suspect.

Homicides and nonfatal shootings this year are up when compared to the same period of time last year in Chicago. Responding to criticism over recent gun violence, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has defended the steps the city has taken to fight crime on his watch, including conducting gang audits and shifting some 600 police officers from desk duty to the streets.

Last weekend, 15 people were wounded and 8 killed by gun violence in the city, a significant proportion of which was attributed to fighting between Chicago gangs.

While Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy has taken responsibility for the recent spike in violent crime, he has also promised to tackle the gang problem head-on, and recently launched an audit of the city's gang databases and shifts in police strategy.

Last year gangs were responsible for about half of the city's gunfire, but they're responsible for an estimated 80 percent of all shooting violence this year.

Schools in areas plagued by gun violence have taken steps to ensure student safety while commuting through gang territories, including fighting for abandoned buildings near schools to be secured, and the installation of bus tracking screens in academic buildings so students can wait indoors before beginning their commutes home.