Thursday, September 2, 2010
Gas Stations, Fires & Abandos
I woke up Tuesday morning and checked the news to find that someone was shot and killed close to where my cousins live and even closer to a bar that one of them manages. A few minutes later I received a text from X saying that he just heard about the shooting and that he would be there to pick me up soon so we could go take a look. The location in the 1100 block of West Madison was not easily discernable even though the incident had happened less than 8 hours ago. There were pieces of both red and yellow tape still tied to a fence. X informed me that yellow tape is used to mark the outside perimeter of a crime scene and what keeps the regular people out. Red tape, on the other hand, is used to indicate to the police that the area it delineates is highly sensitive and may contain important evidence. We decided that we would come back later to ask some of the bar regulars if they could tell us more about what happened.
Before we continued on, we had to stop for some Dunkin’ Donuts coffee (…the cop diet continues).
First we tried to go to the site where Julio Castrumita was shot and killed on the sidewalk in the 2800 block of West Pershing Road. A teenage boy was reading the paper on the front steps of the house where the address fell. It also appeared that there was a cluster of religious candles in the corner of the porch. I am not sure that they were there as a memorial for Julio, but I assume so. I contemplated talking to the boy about what I was doing and seeing if he would mind me photographing, but he was quite young and I didn’t know his relation to the victim so I didn’t want to make him upset in case it was his brother, cousin, or a close friend.
The next site was where Frankie Zamudio was shot in the beginning of the summer. It was a site that I had already visited, but felt that I needed to go back to photograph again. The last time I was there the block was very quiet, but this time there were people all around. There was even a cart on the opposite corner with a short line where a people were waiting to buy sno-cones. It couldn’t have been later than 9:30, but it was already steamy out so I didn’t blame them for wanting something cold.
We went from there to the 3300 block of West 63rd Street where 28-year-old Terrance Cooper was shot as he left a store at about 10:30 on the evening of August 18th. The address was a check-cashing window inside a glass enclosed corner storefront. An older woman who worked in another store on the block came up to us and asked what we were doing. I told her I was photographing where Cooper was killed and X said he was a police officer. She thanked X for his efforts and showed him that she had on a CPD pin on the collar of her shirt. X pulled out his badge, which was a much bigger version of her pin. She was excited to see it. She also told us that the incident didn’t happen where I was photographing. It happened on the corner across the street. On the opposing side of the street was a car store with a huge empty gated parking lot (except for one red Jeep whose tire had been knocked off). I assumed that this must have been where Cooper was coming out of when he was shot, so I began to photograph there. Our CPD pinned friend crossed the street again and stopped to tell us that it happened right there, directly on the corner, right where I was standing. Once again proof that, as X likes to say, “The streets know more than the police.”
After finally photographing the right spot there, we headed to the 5900 block of South California Avenue where Anthony Martinez got into a dispute with the driver of another car at a gas station. The two traded gang slogans and accusations before the driver ran him over. The gas station was right on the corner of California and 59th Street so the area was very busy with traffic and pedestrians. Among all the chaos, a little old lady sat quietly all alone at the bust stop. I stood a bit down the street so that I could get a larger view of the area. A dog was barking incessantly from behind the tall wooden fence I was standing next to.
Just down the street in the 5800 block of South California Avenue, was where Jaime Sanchez-Negrete was found in a backyard. He had been assaulted and also had a gunshot wound on the side of his head. X and I found the address and pulled around through the alley to the back. Low chain link fences separated all the yards on the block. The neighbors on one side were sitting out on their back patio. We would have to come back to this location. We drove by it two more times before the end of the day to see if they were still out. They were and they noticed us each time.
The next site was in the 6100 block of S Richmond Street where Raymon Sanchez was found after firefighters removed the collapsed roof of his garage after a huge blaze. Autopsy reports indicate that he was beaten to death. We accidentally turned down the wrong alley first and were perplexed as to why there was no sign of a fire anywhere. We passed two men walking down the alley. One of them was wearing a tiny red beret that was just barely hanging onto his head. He smiled and said good morning. After realizing we were in the wrong place, we went one block south and easily found the location. The house was burned badly even on the front side. All the windows and doors had been boarded up. Around the back, in the alley, there was an empty space where the garage used to be. Its frame was still outlined on the bare ground. A fence on the south side of the lot was completely charred and many of the garbage cans in the immediate vicinity looked like they had melted. The garage directly across from the now empty space had remnants of melted plastic hanging from the garage door. A man on a small BMX bike passed us and turned the corner.
From there we went to 51st Street and Sacramento where Yusuf Yusuf was shot and killed in a drive-by. The site was on the corner between two large parking lots for the employees of a giant steel factory that sat on the north side of the street. One of the workers from the factory came out to talk to us. She knew about the shooting and was able to tell us exactly where the incident happened.
The last two sites we visited that day were in Englewood. The first was the site where Tyrone Clark was shot and killed in the 1400 block of West 58th Street. The immediate area was extremely quiet in comparison to the adjacent street where there were tons of people out on their porches trying to stay cool as the temperature rose into the 90s. There were two nice single-family homes off the corner followed by one house that was boarded up. There was a hula-hoop hanging from a tree branch just above the site where Clark was shot. We were surprised to see that there was no memorial since the incident happened less than a week before our visit.
Conversely, the next site, where Marshall Bennett was shot and killed in the 5500 block of South Union Avenue, had been transformed into a huge memorial to the 21-year-old boy. The building was a two-flat. As I stood on the street, I could see a ceiling fan rotating on the top floor, but the bottom floor appeared to be vacant. The white front door that was slowly swinging on its hinges in the wind was covered in writing. As I looked closer, it appeared that people had signed it and left notes, many said RIP. There were three large bay windows in the front. One was boarded over and the other two were covered with a white sheet. On the window closest to the door there was a black and white photocopied picture of Bennett and a girl. At the top of the front steps sat a pair of boots with a wooden cross between them. At the base of the stairs in the yard, there was a table with a wreath laying on it. While we were there, a group of teenage girls emerged from a vacant lot just south of the house and proceeded to cut across another vacant lot on the other side of the street. The yelled at me from about three houses away and asked what I was doing. When I answered that I was photographing for a project about violence in Chicago, they ignored me and continued on their way.
We decided that before calling it a day, we would go back to the bar on Madison Street and see if we could talk to some of the people there about the shooting the night before. As we headed north, I counted a block on which five of the eight existing buildings were boarded up. X refers to them as “abandos.”