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Kelsey Snell/MEDILL

Ronald and Annette Holt, parents of Blair Holt, spoke in support of the billboards.          

South Side church posts bounty on youth killers

by Adam Wren and Kelsey Snell
Nov 24, 2009

Adam Wren/MEDILL

The Rev. Michael Pfleger talks about why the church is proposing the $5,000 bounty now.

Shoot or kill children our children? You will be caught.

That’s the message posted on 20 billboards across the city that were unveiled Tuesday by the Rev. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Catholic Church. The billboards promise a $5,000 reward for tips leading to the arrest and conviction of offenders who kill youth.

“It is not acceptable to think you can shoot or kill children in Chicago and get away with it, and that’s what’s happening,” Pfleger said. “So we are going to put a bounty on anyone’s head who shoots or kills children in Chicago – black, white or brown.”

Standing with a group parishioners and supporters in front of a billboard in a vacant lot at 6743 S. Ashland Ave. Tuesday, Pfleger said the billboards are meant to wake up people to the reality of youth violence.

The announcement also comes exactly two months after 16-year-old Derrion Albert’s fatal beating. Viral video of the beating was shown across the world and trained the focus of the national media on the city.

“We saw an outrage about Derrion Albert when he was beaten to death outside of Fenger High School,” Pfleger said. “There was a national outcry. Now we’ve seen everybody go back and be lulled into sleep. We refuse to be silent and to shake our heads and put up some balloons and teddy bears when a child is killed or a child is shot in this city.”

Pfleger said 12 Chicago Public Schools students had been killed and 78 shot since the beginning of this school year.

Pfleger acknowledged that youth violence was a problem that would not be remedied by offering a bounty.

“The issue is complex,” Pfleger said. “We are not here to say this is a solution to it.”

Pfleger's announcement came with the support of Illinois Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago) and Illinois Rep. Arthea Pleasant (D-Chicago).

“Radical times call for radical measures, and if a $5,000 reward is going to help save our children, then we have to do everything we can,” said Kathryn Welch, a spokeswoman for Collins. “If people see something, they need to report it.”

Ronald and Annette Holt, parents of 17-year-old Blair Holt, gunned down on a CTA bus in 2007, also spoke in support of Pfleger's billboards.

In addition to offering the bounty, Plfeger said he and his parishioners will focus their efforts on reducing access to firearms in Chicago, but did not elaborate how that would be accomplished.

Plfeger said the money for the rewards and the billboards did not come out of church funds, but from donations from congregants and community members. The billboards, he said, will be posted across the city over the next two months.

People with information about shooting incidents involving youths can call (773) 483-4300.