Anti-violence group says softball league licenses pulled after Washington Park mass shooting

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Khalil Denny wanted to attend a friendly game at Washington Park, his mother said.

But around 7.45pm on September 13, an argument between two groups near the baseball field escalated into an exchange of gunfire, killing Denny, 19, and Lionel Coward, 43, and injuring eight others.

“He was watching the softball game, he wasn’t playing. I don’t know why shots rang out,” said her mother, Lanette Denny. “Whatever happens, I guess our teenagers are no longer safe here in Chicago.”

Now activists from Acclivus Inc., an anti-violence group that organizes the Friendly Softball League between neighborhoods, say they are being wrongly blamed for the shooting and are no longer allowed to host games.

The group held a balloon release in Washington Park on Wednesday for victims of the mass shooting and called on the Chicago Park District to reinstate permits for future games.

“The shooting had absolutely nothing to do with this baseball game,” Gwen Baxter, trauma response specialist at Acclivus, told reporters. “No one at the game, no players, no spectators, no cooks, people providing food, no one had anything to do with this unfortunate incident.”

Acclivus Inc. activists release balloons in memory of the victims of a September 13 mass shooting in Washington Park that left two dead and eight injured.

Emmanuel Camarillo/Sun-Times.

“Shame on the Chicago Park District for taking the permits,” Baxter said. “They want to hold Acclivus responsible for what happened, but you can’t hold us responsible. It’s a good thing happening, bringing people together, bringing communities together.

Chicago Police Superintendent. David Brown said last week the shooting was not gambling-related and may have stemmed from “a personal conflict with gang affiliations”.

State Representative Kam Buckner, a mayoral candidate, said Wednesday that the shooting should prompt more investment in violence prevention.

“We need to invest dollars in the pandemic of violence in this city the same way we invested dollars in COVID-19. It has to happen, and if we don’t release funds, we will continue to release balloons,” Buckner said.

Torrence Cooks, who coordinates games for Acclivus, said the group had held games without incident at other parks this summer. He said the aim of the games was to draw young people away from the streets.

“We’re getting people to hang in the parks instead of just hanging on the corners,” Cooks said.

That’s what Khalil Denny was trying to do. He was at the game with his friends, enjoying their company, his mother said.

Khalil was a “sneaker head” who loved to shop and was excited to celebrate his birthday this Friday, said Lanette Denny, 49. He had recently purchased a new bottle of Dior cologne for the occasion.

“He was a fun, loving person,” she said.

Lanette Denny thanks Warrior Moms and Heal Your Heart for helping her through such a traumatic experience.

“I told everyone I was in intensive care, I was in critical condition, now I’m in stable condition.”

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