CHICAGO (TheBlaze/AP) — Chicago police say it’s too soon to say whether the city has had its 500th homicide of the year.
The Chicago Police Department homicide tally stood at 499 on Thursday before a man was fatally shot in the head outside a convenience store on the city’s West Side. That would have made 40-year-old Nathaniel Jackson the 500th homicide victim.
But police clarified Friday afternoon that the department’s official homicide tally still stands at 499 because a death in a domestic dispute earlier in December has been classified by the coroner’s office as inconclusive pending toxicology tests. It was originally logged as a homicide.
The Chicago Tribune has more:
The case in question is last Saturday’s death of 57-year-old Edward Phelps. He died following a domestic-related altercation in the 0-99 block of North Long Avenue in Austin, police said.
Although he appeared to have suffered a blunt force injury, his autopsy on Sunday at the Cook County medical examiner’s office was ruled inconclusive, pending toxicological studies.
Still, police classified Phelps’ death as a homicide in the days following the autopsy, according to internal reports. It wasn’t until this afternoon that McCarthy’s spokeswoman, Melissa Stratton, citing the autopsy results, said the department reclassified the case as a death investigation.
The last time Chicago reached the 500-homicide mark was in 2008, when the year ended with 512 killings. Last year, city records show Chicago had 435 homicides. As of Thursday night, homicides were up 17 percent over last year in the Windy City and shootings had increased by 11 percent, police statistics show.
Chicago has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, but that hasn’t deterred violent crimes or shootings.
Update 8:23 p.m. EST: Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy says the city has logged its 500th homicide of the year.
McCarthy issued a statement Friday calling the milestone a “tragic number that is reflective of the gang violence and proliferation of illegal guns that have plagued some of our neighborhoods.”
The police department went back and forth Friday, first verifying the 500th killing, then backing off and saying an earlier death was still being investigated.