Mother pleads with police at fatal Chicago shooting: ‘I need to touch my son’

A woman grieves over her son, one of the latest victims of gun violence in Chicago.
(Erin Hooley / Chicago Tribune)

The woman strained against the crime tape, just feet from a body slumped on the sidewalk, and pleaded with police: “I need to touch my son.”

For the next hour, officers gently kept her away as investigators talked to her and relatives comforted her.

As the sun rose Friday, she walked down the street and disappeared into one of the homes of West Iowa Street on the Near North Side of Chicago. Minutes later, she rushed out the back door, ran down the steps and collapsed on the body of her son.


“My baby,” she cried as she struggled to hold him close to her. “My baby.”

Police say her son, Kennatay Leavell, 31, was shot several times in the face around 2:55 a.m. Friday outside the last of the row houses of the notorious Cabrini-Green public housing project. Another man, 34, was shot several times in the abdomen and was in critical condition at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Leavell’s death came as Chicago passed a grim milestone: 400 homicides so far this year. The city reached that mark two days earlier than last year, when gun violence reached levels not seen in two decades. And that’s four months earlier than four years ago, when Chicago hit the mark shortly before Thanksgiving, according to data collected by the Chicago Tribune.

Though fewer people have been shot this year than by this time last year, more people are dying from their wounds, the statistics show. The percentage of fatal shootings is running about 1.3% higher than last year.

Police couldn’t say what led to the shooting of Leavell, one of at least 2,150 people shot in Chicago this year. His family said he had relatives and friends who lived in the area.

“All this is family around here,” his father, Willie Ross, said at the scene.

Leavell was convicted of second-degree murder in 2008, but his father said he was raising two children, a 12-year-old and a 1-year-old.

“He was a good son,” Ross said. “He loved people. He did everything he could for people.”

As he talked, about a dozen security guards along with Chicago police officers guarded the crime scene, in the middle of what was once a vast housing complex. Neighbors paced the street while others watched from their front steps.

A woman came out of one of homes, looked around and kissed the baby in her arms before going back inside.

Evidence technicians were already working the scene when Leavell’s mother arrived. His body lay uncovered.

“Where my son at? Where my son?” she asked as two women came up and held her. “I want to see my son, please, I got to see my son.”

Officers led her away but she stayed close by, at times sitting on the curb and crying. “When are they going to let me go over there to see my son?” she asked. “I need to touch my son, let me over there.”

She finally found a way through one of the homes just before a van arrived to take her son’s body, now covered with a white sheet. After a few minutes with her son, she was steered back to the steps by an officer. She was still sitting there when the van pulled up.

Leavell’s father walked around the van and knelt next to his son and silently held him as workers unloaded a gurney. There were gasps in the crowd as they turned his body over and placed him on it.

As the van pulled away, Leavell’s mother got a bowl of water and poured it on the sidewalk, then used a broom to sweep away her son’s blood. An officer came to help, pouring a bucket of water on the sidewalk.

A relative took the broom from the mother and finished the job.

Malagon writes for the Chicago Tribune.


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