Two teens, each of them not 130 pounds, walked down Troy Street toward 47th and stopped next to a van where a man was talking through the window to his girlfriend and kids.
The weather was beautiful and they talked of going to the park. Up the street, a few children were out front with their parents and grandparents.
One of the teens, a boy in dark gray and a black hat, asked the man what he was “about,” or what gang he belonged to, according to police and several witnesses.
“I’m with my kids,” the man told him.
The teen turned to the other and told him to shoot the man, using a racial epithet for blacks.
“I’m with my kids,” the man repeated. His girlfriend made the same plea: “He’s with his kids.”
But the other teen, who witnesses said looked the younger of the two, raised a pistol and shot the man in the forehead. The man fell to the ground and the teen stood over him and fired two more times, police and witnesses said.
The man’s 2-year-old son cried, but his 5-month-old daughter didn’t register what happened. The girlfriend kept screaming “Wake up! Wake up!”
Her aunt rushed the children inside, where she tried to calm the 2-year-old, who remained hysterical nearly an hour after the shooting Thursday afternoon in the 4600 block of South Troy Street in the Brighton Park neighborhood.
In the home, a children’s cartoon was on TV, loud enough to be heard outside.
A neighbor walked up the block to see what happened. He moved the man’s head to see if he was responsive, then stepped back, made the sign of the cross and walked back home. His girlfriend asked him to do something and he shook his head.
The man on the ground appeared dead, but paramedics rushed him to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he was initially listed in critical condition with wounds to the head, shoulder and back, according to police.
He later died. No one was reported in custody.
Neighbors who talked to the Chicago Tribune asked that their full names not be used out of fear of retaliation. They did not want to draw attention to themselves.
All of them described the erosion of a sense of community over the years as their neighborhood has grown more violent. The violence has become more frequent and intense as a gang conflict from neighboring Back of the Yards grew into Brighton Park and gangs have used rifles, wounding dozens over the last year.
“Right now, everybody is scared,” said the man who attended to the victim. “Nobody on this block is going to let their kids go outside unless they’re outside with them, and they’re not going to let them out of their sight. No bikes, no park.”
Another neighbor, Olivia, described the problem that parents have been facing over the last few years.
“Either you have your kid in the house, or you let them go outside and they join a gang,” Olivia said. “We kept ours in the house.”
For years, Olivia said she has organized the 4600 South Troy Avenue block party. She gathers signatures and files the paperwork. The tradition is one that children look forward to.
She gave instructions to others on the block to pull the permit, if they wanted, but nobody has yet. “It’s too dangerous. I don’t want something to happen,” she said. “I don’t want that on my conscience.”
She and other neighbors call the police on the relatively minor transgressions — suspicious cars, drug sales — but the police seem unresponsive to their calls until something major happens.
Juanita sat on her porch with her husband, an American flag hanging from a flagpole and another on the front door. Her contribution to the block party is coffee, homemade pastries, juice for children. Last Fourth of July, she rolled out a popcorn machine and hot dog cart.
“I’ve been a community person since I can remember,” she said. She’s considered the block’s grandmother. “The block parties were good, because in the winter, the neighbors rarely see each other. They were a good time to catch up.”
As officers worked, parents walked their kids home from an elementary school around the corner. Students in Chicago Public Schools khakis and blue polo shirts walked from Columbia Explorers Academy a few blocks away.
A boy lugging a green backpack was warned by two older women on the block: Go inside, lock your doors, stay away from the windows.
“And if I see you in the window,” one woman warned, “I’m going to call your mom.”
More than a dozen kids live on the block, but they all stayed inside when they got home.