The 150 or so revelers had gathered to blow off steam before the holidays. Then an argument triggered a hail of bullets that sent them sprinting for the exits.
This wasn’t San Bernardino, California, on December 2. It was Calumet City, a suburb of Chicago, Illinois, in December 2014. When the gunfire ceased, 10 people were wounded, including Dewayne Purnell, who lay on the floor with two bullet holes in his back. Emergency workers tried in vain to save him. The 19-year-old was dead within an hour.
Purnell was set to leave for Fort Jackson in South Carolina to join the Army in nine days — “to see the world,” his mother said. Purnell’s father added that his imminent departure was the only reason he was allowed to attend the party, which was just a half-mile from home. “I let him go out one night, and I’m never going to see him again.”
The Calumet City incident falls into a category of mass shootings that barely generates headlines. There is no official definition for a “mass shooting,” but one popular metric uses the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s criteria for a mass murder and applies it to gun violence, setting the threshold at four or more killed while also excluding gang-related violence. Another, promoted by a project called the Mass Shooting Tracker, defines a mass shooting as four or more people shot in a single event.
It’s understandable that crimes with higher body counts generate greater interest — to a degree, sadness and drama multiply along with the number of lives lost. But America’s fixation on the deadliest of mass shootings has the effect of warping perceptions of the true pervasiveness of gun violence. Mass shootings account for less than 1.5 percent of the country’s 33,600 annual gun deaths. And fatalities, in turn, are only one aspect of gun violence. To capture its full extent means including the 84,000 people wounded annually by gunfire, many of whom are sidelined by injuries that persist for the rest of their lives. It means include shootings that generate neither wall-to-wall coverage nor tweets of “thoughts and prayers” not primetime addresses from the president.
Going back 365 days, from December 2, 2014 to December 2, 2015, The Trace found 13 incidents with casualty numbers at least double the four needed to qualify as a mass shooting under the Mass Shooting Tracker’s definition. In all, sixteen people were killed and 136 people wounded in these forgotten outbreaks of gun violence.
December 21, 2014: 8 people shot
Advertised on social media as a “kickback party” with a $5 entrance charge, the gathering at a suburban Chicago house attracted 150 teenagers, more than the residence could comfortably hold. Things got heated. Purnell wound up dead of a bullet wound, while another seven revelers were injured by gunfire. (Chicago Tribune)
December 22, 2014: 9 people shot
Nine people ranging in age from 16 to 21 were wounded in a drive-by shooting in West Little River, Florida. Some of the victims had been playing basketball in Arcola Park when a dark-colored Nissan Maxima pulled up. The shooter leaned out a window, spraying the crowd with bullets.
Detroit police chief James Craig called the suspects in the shooting ‘urban terrorists.’
In a 2011, four gang members drove by the same park and opened fire into a crowd of children, hitting kids aged 3, 11, 13, and 16. (Local10.com)
January 24, 2015: 8 people shot
Three people in their 20s were killed and five others were wounded when multiple gunmen opened fire on a crowded party in a vacant house in Omaha, Nebraska. The mother of one of the dead, 19-year-old JaKela Foster, said she asked her daughter not to attend. “I now have a 1-year-old grandson that has no mother,” she said. Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer blamed “gang members that have no regard for human life.” (NBCNews.com)
June 11, 2015: nine people shot
A man was killed and eight others were wounded during a dispute between rival gangs in the parking lot of at an apartment complex in Bridgeport, Connecticut. An elderly woman was taking a shower in her nearby apartment when a bullet went through the wall and struck her in the buttocks. “This is the worst single shooting I know of in the city’s history,” Joseph Ganim, the former mayor of Bridgeport, said. (Yahoo! News)
June 20, 2015: 12 people shot
One person was killed and 11 were wounded when gunmen opened fire at a child’s birthday party in Detroit, Michigan. Police believe it was a retaliation shooting: the single fatality, a 20-year-old man, had been shot a month earlier. Detroit police chief James Craig called the suspects in the shooting “urban terrorists.” (WXYZ.com)
June 20, 2015: 10 people shot
Three children were among the wounded after two gunmen armed with shotguns and handguns opened fire while neighbors were cleaning up a pre-Father’s Day block party in West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The youngest victim, an 18-month-old, was shot in the neck. “That pellet, as small as it was, could have killed that child,” Lt. Johnnie Walker of the Philadelphia Police Department said. Detectives said the shooting stemmed from a fight a week earlier and that the perpetrators waited until it was dark to retaliate. (6abc.com)
July 5, 2015: 9 people shot
Gunfire between rival groups turned a Fourth of July party bloody in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Most of the bullets came from a passing car. “There’s too much violence,” a woman who witnessed the event said. “Something really has to give.” (The Journal Gazette)
July 5, 2015: 8 people shot
Guests at the Independence Day weekend party in west Shreveport, Louisiana thought the noises were firecrackers until people rushed inside screaming. Six people were shot outside, and three more were hit further up the street. The victims were in their teens and twenties. (KSLA.com)
August 2, 2015: 9 people shot
At least two gunmen opened fire following a dispute at a house party in the East New York section of Brooklyn, New York. Only bystanders were hit.
There’s too much violence. Something really has to give.”
A witness saw 200 people fleeing the scene. “It was a nice family gathering and someone came in and started shooting,” said a woman who emerged from the home said. (The New York Times)
August 7, 2015: 12 people shot
Adline King was dropping a friend off at a party in Blytheville, Arkansas, last August when she greeted a male friend. His ex-girlfriend got jealous and picked a fight with King, and “a guy just shot her down like she was a rag doll,” the 19-year-old’s mother said. “She died over a simple hello.” The incident triggered a spray of bullets: 11 others were wounded, including two children. A brawl among the victims’ family members and friends erupted at the hospital following the shooting. (WREG.com)
August 21, 2015: 8 people shot
Eight people were injured when someone in a car opened fire on a nighttime cookout in a residential neighborhood in Durham, North Carolina. Witnesses said they saw four gun barrels aiming at the crowd. “There are a lot of kids in this neighborhood. And you would hate to see any of them hurt because grown people don’t know how to handle their own affairs,” said Mary Veney, who has lived on the street for years. (WNCN.com)
August 23, 2015: 8 people shot
During an after-party at a warehouse a few miles from X-Fest, a sprawling music festival in Modesto, California, a man walked in and started firing, fatally shooting a 25-year-old man and hitting more than a half-dozen others. “After the gunshots I heard a lot of ladies screaming,” one witness said. An Oakland rapper named DJ Upgrade was among the seven wounded. “All these years in Oakland… And I get shot in Modesto,” he wrote on Instagram. (NBCNews.com)
November 22, 2015: 17 people shot
Seventeen people were wounded when a gun battle broke out during the videotaping of a music video at a block party attended by at least 500 people at a park in New Orleans, Louisiana. “At the end of the day it’s really hard to police against a bunch of guys who decide to pull out guns and settle disputes with 300 people between them,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said. (WLTV.com)
[Photo by Cheryl Gerber/Getty Images]