Panic and fury has taken hold of Philip Rega, the father of a developmentally disabled man wounded in a hail of gunfire in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood.
The 21-year-old son remains in critical condition but is “responding pretty well” a day after being shot in the head and shoulder, his dad said Thursday, a day after the father and son were shot at while waiting for the school bus. Rega’s 15-year-old son was also there, but was not physically harmed in the attack.
“It’s heartbreaking and tragic,” said Rega, who spoke to the Tribune on Thursday afternoon by phone.
Three assailants yelled gang slogans and fired more than 30 times from across the street about 6:30 a.m. early Wednesday in the 4700 block of South Wolcott Avenue, hitting Rega’s 21-year-old son, Jesus, who is “nonverbal” and has cognitive delays. He remains at Stroger Hospital.
[ Man with special needs critically wounded in Back of Yards shooting ]
“His condition is pretty good. He’s stable but still in critical condition,” said Rega. “He’s opening his eyes and moving around, responding pretty well.”
Doctors told the family that Jesus may lose some vision and taste, according to Rega, whose 15-year-old son is also nonverbal and has similar developmental disabilities as Jesus. “I was holding his hand,’’ said Rega of his teen son.
The brothers, headed to their school, got out there early with Rega, not wanting to miss the bus, which usually arrives sometime before 7 a.m.
It was dark still but Rega was able to make out three assailants wearing black clothing walking toward them from 48th Street.
According to a Chicago police report, as they got closer, one of them screamed: “What do you think you’re doing? Who you be?” The three then began yelling “2-6!” according to the report.
Rega whipped out his cellphone and began to call 911 when one of the group began firing — at least 30 times from across the street. ShotSpotter, a gunfire detection system, alerted to 39 rounds at the scene, and multiple shell casings were recovered, Deering District Cmdr. Don Jerome said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
“All I could see was the flame from the barrel of the gun,” Rega said.
Still clutching his hand, Rega jumped on his 15-year-old and they “ducked” to the ground. Though Jesus “automatically dropped” to the ground and stood only 5 feet away, Rega could not reach him in time.
Jesus collapsed and began bleeding from the head. He’d been shot in the forehead, the top of the head and the left shoulder, police said.
As Rega ran to him to give him comfort and keep him revived, he stayed on the line “every little minute” with the 911 dispatcher.
“I was in panic mode, I was furious and panicky,” Rega said. “I was trying to protect my sons more than anything.”
They were right across the street from us when they began “using gang profanity,” Rega said.
“They thought I was one,” Rega said, referring to a member of an opposing gang.
As detectives were investigating, an 80-year-old man who lives nearby approached and handed them two bullets that he found inside his house after they’d smashed through his front door.
Jerome said Wednesday that the location of the shooting is a “gang area” with an ongoing gang conflict. After the attack, the three assailants ran away and were not in custody, police said.