Fatal shooting appears to have pushed city's homicide toll to 500

(MCT) — The fatal shooting of a 40-year-old man Thursday night on the West Side appears to have pushed Chicago's 2012 homicide toll to 500, the first time the city has had that many killings in four years.

The slaying came hours after the Chicago Police Department said the city was one homicide away from the 500 mark for the year.

The victim was standing outside a convenience store around 9 p.m. at Augusta Boulevard and Lavergne Avenue in the city's Austin community when he was shot in the head, police said. He was pronounced dead at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County at 12:18 a.m., a spokesman for the Cook County medical examiner's office said.

At the shooting scene, a pool of blood stained the sidewalk outside Noah Foods. Police tapped apartment windows and knocked on doors looking for witnesses. A stray dog trotted through the crime scene before taking off in a sprint up Lavergne.

A few bullet casings, which police initially believed to be from a .45 caliber handgun, were found next to where the man was shot. Before officers left the scene, three people walked out of the store and pounded the metal gate shut.

The last time Chicago had 500 or more homicides was in 2008. As of Thursday night, homicides were up 17 percent over last year, and shootings had increased by 11 percent, according to police statistics.

Largely contributing to the spike was the unusual number of homicides that occurred during the early part of the year, in which the city experienced unseasonable warmth. In the first three months of the year, homicides ran about 60 percent ahead of the 2011 rate.