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Boy among 13 wounded in late-night attack on Chicago park

An attack late Thursday in the city’s Back of the Yards neighborhood left three victims, including the boy, in critical condition.

Chandler West/Sun-Times Media/AP

An attack late Thursday in the city’s Back of the Yards neighborhood left three victims, including the boy, in critical condition.

CHICAGO — A gunman who shot and wounded 13 people at a South Side park Thursday night was armed with an assault-style rifle equipped with a high-capacity magazine, the police said Friday.

“A military-grade weapon on the streets of Chicago is simply unacceptable,” Garry McCarthy, the Chicago police superintendent, said at a news conference, where he issued another of his frequent calls for tighter state and federal gun laws.

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Among the wounded was a 3-year-old boy, who was struck in the face and is expected to survive. The boy and two other victims were hospitalized in critical condition. McCarthy said it was a miracle that no one was killed.

The police said that no arrests had been made and that investigators were uncertain about the intended target, the motive, or even the number of people who fired weapons. There may have been one gunman, McCarthy said, or as many as three.

The attack, which took place during a pickup basketball game, was the latest flare-up of street violence that has confounded city leaders. Chicago had more than 500 homicides in 2012 — more than any other city in the nation, and about 80 more than New York, which has three times as many people.

The vast majority of the violence has occurred in poorer neighborhoods on the city’s South and West sides. Thursday’s shooting again vaulted the issue to the center of the city’s continuing conversation about the causes of gun violence and potential solutions for the problem.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel canceled events on the East Coast on Friday and was flying home because of the shooting, his aides said. Among the events called off were a scheduled appearance at a rally on behalf of Cory Booker, the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in New Jersey, and meetings in Washington, D.C., with the secretaries of the departments of Energy and Labor.

“The perpetrators of this crime will be brought to justice and prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Emanuel said in a statement. “I encourage everyone in the community to step forward with any information and everyone in Chicago to continue their individual efforts to build stronger communities where violence has no place.”

The shootings Thursday at Cornell Square Park occurred on an evening when other shootings around the city led to two deaths and injuries to at least nine other people, the police reported.

McCarthy said Friday that while shootings typically elicit few witnesses who volunteer information to officers, the attack in the park had generated fury — and help.

“We’re getting a ton of cooperation,” he said. “People are rightfully outraged.”

Because some of the injured had gang affiliations, the police said they suspected that the shooting was linked to the city’s warring street gangs, which the authorities say have splintered into increasingly complex groups in recent years.

In recent months, the city has sought to combat such violence by deploying hundreds of officers on overtime to 20 neighborhoods plagued by shootings. The result, the police say, is a murder rate about 20 percent lower this year compared with 2012.

But the park, in the city’s Back of the Yards neighborhood, is not within any of those 20 zones.

“Every time something happens, we suffer a setback,” McCarthy said Friday. “The fact is, we’re doing better. The fact is, we have a long way to go.”

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