I woke up and looked at the weather. It was 52º out. Summer is clearly over. When X picked me up at 7:10 am I was bundled up in jeans and a hoodie. He was sporting his bullet proof vest and had his radio wired into his ear secret service style. He said he thought we might be going to the West Side, in which case he wanted to be clearly identified as a police officer. He seemed relieved when I chose an area on the South Side mostly east of the expressway in the 70s. We hopped on the highway heading south. The next thing I knew, X was exiting the highway at Pershing Road. He thought we should swing by the house on the 2800 block of West Pershing where we have had little success photographing in the past because there has always been a group of boys on the front porch. We drove up to the house to find no one was there. After passing it six or seven times, this was a definite surprise. The sidewalk in front of this house is where 22-year-old Julio Castrumita was shot in the head and killed on August 21st. The past few times we drove by the site I could see that there was a memorial on the front porch made up of around ten religious candles, but when I got closer to photograph I saw that there were also small liquor bottles on a bench and a gray stone with signatures on it with a white tablet sitting on top of it. The morning paper was teetering on the bottom step and an American flag was flapping in the wind. Knowing how active this site is, I felt as though at any moment someone was going to walk out onto the porch. Looking through my lens, I noticed that one of the candles was lit. It was not burned down so someone must have lit it fairly recently. As we were getting into the car, a young man drove by and looked at us. He looked like one of the boys who typically sit on the porch there. He pulled into a parking spot a few in front of us. If it was him, I truly did luck out to find that porch empty for a few short minutes.
After that, we got some DD coffee (which was burnt) and got back on the highway headed towards 78th Street just off of Cottage Grove Avenue where Jeremy Brooks was shot and killed at the mouth of an alley next to an eight to ten flat apartment building. The 17-year-old was shot several times by one of two people who confronted him. After the shooting, police turned out in force in the neighborhood with a swarm of officers in the area with M4 rifles because the victim is the younger brother of a top member of the Gangster Disciples and police feared a retaliation shooting. At the site there was a deteriorating memorial on and around the base of a tree made up of a teddy bears tied around the trunk, along with a red bandana and some deflated balloons, a cognac bottle wrapped in a red bandana, a few candles and freshly picked white flowers. I looked into the significance of a red bandana and found that the Gangster Disciple’s rival gang, the Vice Lords, wears red bandanas. I don’t know the significance of this at the memorial, but can speculate that the rival gang killed him. Maybe the bandanas were displayed to let them know that they are aware of who did this. Again, this is all speculation. Another thing that I noticed at the site was that there was a red car with shiny, expensive looking rims parked in the alley next to the building. A man and woman came out of the apartment complex while I was setting up my camera. They could have cared less that we were there.
The next location, only a few blocks away, in the 900 block of East 79th Street where D’Angelo Jackson was shot and killed, was on the sidewalk in front of what used to be the Nine 17 Café. There was a sign above the door that read “closed for renovation.” It was right next to a food mart that was busy with morning coffee traffic. A friendly man approached X and I asking what we were doing. X told him that someone was killed here and that it was for a project documenting homicides from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The man went into the food mart and I could hear him tell someone inside that we were taking pictures where a guy was killed. He came back out and asked what was going to happen with the pictures when they were done and asked how many places we had to go to. X answered his questions while I took pictures. The man went to his car then came back a few minutes later with a few more questions. When he finally resigned to his car and drove off we saw that he had a modified Ford Bronco. The plastic top over the back seats had been removed, making it look like a pickup truck. Instead of rear windows there were shades separating him from the outside elements. I didn't get a picture of that, but I did see these sweet rims on the same block.
The site where DeShawn McNeil was shot and killed was not even half a block away in the alley just beyond the backside of the Nine 17 Café in the rear of a large apartment complex. The alley was extremely narrow with tall brick walls from the large apartment complexes that butted up to the pavement on both sides. It felt like I was in a canyon. The area where McNeil was killed was easily discernable since there were still a few pieces of the red police tape tied to the gate over two and a half months past the incident. While we were there, X heard reports of a woman in a vest photographing in an alley over the police radio. He thought it might have been us, but decided that the response time was way too quick, not to mention I was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, not a vest. X pointed out a note he found taped to a telephone pole where we were photographing. He wouldn’t read it out loud, but made me come over and look at it. It read, “Black people R evil. The Klu Klux Klan is right.”
The note on the pole in the alley
From here we headed towards the east to the 8000 block of South Jeffery Boulevard where Linton Goldsmith was driving a van at about 1:00 a.m. on August 24th when he was shot in the face. Reports said he was driving when another vehicle pulled up and someone inside fired shots into the van. The van struck a tree and flipped over but the five other people inside were not injured. Goldsmith was found unresponsive. The site of the shooting and accident was across the street from the Horace Mann School. The addresses on the block were a bit confusing. There were several numbers that got skipped. There were two unmarked buildings that may have been the address. One of the buildings was an abando and the other had several crushed beer cans on the front stoop. Given the situation, I could discern that since there was only one tree that sat almost between the two properties that the incident must have taken place there.
After leaving there we continued toward the lake to revisit the site where Dwoyne Baker was shot and killed on the sidewalk in the 7900 block of South Brandon Avenue. I was unhappy with the pictures I made the first time around. As we passed the address of the site, I could see a little girl at the front screen door looking out at us. The house next door had a string out triangular flags hanging from their fence and a few Happy Birthday signs by the entrance gate. I noticed a plastic grocery bag tied to the fence. I asked X about it since I saw this at several of the locations today. He said he didn’t really know why they were there, but that they were just filled with trash.
Steven Bell was found shot on the sidewalk not too far north on the 7400 block of South Kingston Avenue. The site was on a vacant lot that had several cars parked on the overgrown grass. There was a large white house peeking out from behind several trees. One of the three men standing on the corner at the block walked past me, said hello and went into an apartment building a few lots down. It was otherwise quiet.
Next we went to the 7100 block of South Yates Boulevard where 1-year-old Jamar Harris was being watched by his mother's boyfriend when he was brought to the University of Chicago Children’s Hospital unresponsive. He had bruising to his body. It was claimed that he fell down the stairs. An autopsy showed that Jamar died of blunt force trauma and was a victim of child abuse and his death was ruled a homicide. The address was a unit in a large brick apartment complex. It was the first residential building at the end of a string of commercial storefronts including the local alderman’s office. There were several people standing outside the office. While I was photographing, X told me not to look, but that I was causing quite a stir with them. They were watching me, talking, and pointing. Across the street a man in a red truck pulled up and sat in it watching us as well. I recognized that this was an unfortunate and sensitive situation so I tried to be quick and not cause any waves. As we pulled out I saw the man in the red truck watch us leave.
We headed to the 2000 block of East 71st Street next. In this area, 71st Street is divided by train tracks. There is really no barrier to keep people from walking onto and across the tracks. I wonder if this is where I hear about people getting run over by the train. It seems like it could happen easily here. We found the site right outside a sandwich shop, where 64-year-old Mobolaji Osho was shot by an attacker who was shooting at a group of teens when he walked out the shop. The block was busy with people in the stores, waiting for the bus, and just generally idling. We went around the block a few times. There was a young man who took note of us each time. The last time he rounded the corner of one of the side streets and called to a group of other young men. X said he thought they were selling dope on the corner. I always trust X’s judgment. He thought we should come back, so we kept driving.
Chris Rock on Martin Luther King Boulevard
The next three sites we went to were on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The first two were just a few houses apart in the 7000 block. The first was the site where Ernest Sanford was shot and killed on June 13th on the sidewalk in front of an abandoned building. The patch of grass between the sidewalk and the street was overgrown and full of garbage, empty liquor bottles, and fast food remnants. At the bottom of my frame, I discovered a short piece of red police tape in the mess. It was odd to think that it was still there after so much time.
The other location that was a few houses down was the site where Debra Haywood-Hughes’ husband stabbed her to death on their 10th anniversary. After killing her he called the cops to tell them what he had done. The house looked empty but not abandoned. There was a light on in the front entrance hall, but no sign of life otherwise. Above the front door was a sign that said, “We call police.”
About thirteen blocks north of there, in the 6300 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, on the same day, Laverick Marshall was in a large crowd that was fighting on the sidewalk in front of a housing development (The same housing development I photographed in May where Quintin Sharp was shot and killed). When the crowd cleared, Marshall was found shot. This portion of MLK Jr. Drive is very busy with car traffic. I photographed from across the street in front of a hot dog stand. It was hard to time the pictures between the people walking on the sidewalk and the passing cars.
Our last location for the day was in the 5700 block of South State Street at the Garden State Liquor Store where 20-year-old Marcus Marshall was inside when he was shot and killed. The store was on the corner and most of the area surrounding it was vacant. It was 10 am and the store was hopping. Cars pulled up, people jumped out, entered the store, and came out just as quickly. I photographed from across the street, then on the same side. I wanted to get one more angle before we left and a big van pulled up in front, right in my way. A large man got out and went inside. We figured we would wait until he came out. In the meantime, two men walked up to the bus stop in front of the building. When the large man came back out, he opened the back of his van and people began to gather. He must have been selling something. We gave up and decided that we would come back again if we needed to.
After today I have 49 more locations to photograph.