I woke up early Saturday morning and pulled up Chicago Breaking News to find that two people were shot overnight on the West Side right smack dab in the middle of where we were headed to photograph. One of the shootings was in the 4800 block of West Jackson and the other was only one block away in the 4800 block of West Gladys. Not knowing what X would want to do, rather than just printing out the West Side sites, I printed out all the ones I had left to visit and thought I would let X make the call as to whether it was a good idea to head that way. He thought that it might actually be a great opportunity. After such a crazy night, people might be laying low. As anti-intuitive going towards the violence to avoid it might seem, it was not the first time it worked in our favor, so after stopping for some coffee, we headed west.
Our first location was in the 5100 block of West Monroe where Brian Daniel was shot and killed in mid-August while playing a game of cards with a group of friends. He was standing on the corner when three male assailants approached and opened fire. A 15-year-old boy at the scene was also struck by gunfire. On the corner was a large apartment building with three signs on one side announcing 24-hour video surveillance. Two of the ground floor windows were broken and were boarded up from the inside. As we were photographing a group of three young boys (maybe 10-years-old) walked up. They asked why we were taking pictures. X told them that someone was killed there. Their eyes widened. They didn’t know anything about someone being killed there. X asked them if they stayed near by. They all said no. They stood by us for the rest of the time that I photographed and asked all kinds of questions about the homicide and the purpose of the pictures. When we left, they continued on their way, walking in their tiny pack south on Leamington.
The next location was close, but we didn’t realize how close until we started looking at the surrounding addresses. Ronnie Peterson was shot and killed in the 5000 block of West Monroe in front of a building just 3 lots off the northeast side of the same corner. Just six days after Daniel was killed, Peterson was sitting in his car when another vehicle pulled up next to him and fired into the car killing him. Both shootings are believed to be gang related. Since the young boys walked off, the block was quiet except for one man that stood on the sidewalk about half way down the block watching us. He didn’t move a muscle the whole time. He just positioned himself with his legs shoulder length apart and his arms crossed and stared.
After leaving here, we went to the 4800 block of West Van Buren where Harvey Space, who was on parole, was shot to death as he sat in his car near his home. He was sitting in his car about 9:15 a.m. when someone pulled up nearby in a four-door brown car, got out, and shot at Space several times through the front windshield of his car. The attacker got back into the car and it drove off. His car was parked in front of a red stone two-flat that appeared to be abandoned at first. After looking more closely I saw that the front door had a slab of plywood over it, but all the windows were intact and there were air conditioning units in the windows on both floors. About half way down the block there were three people standing in the street near a car. They paid us no mind when we drove by and were even less interested in why we might be photographing.
The site of Kirk McCullough’s death was in the 4400 block of West Madison. He was found shot to death in his car near the banquet hall that he was employed by as a bouncer. According to Google street view images, at the time of his death he was parked in front of what was B.M. Services. The location is now the B&B Sports Bar. It is new enough to have a banner announcing the name. An older bar right next door was painted red with big white lettering reading “Born Losers.” Across the wide four-lane road from them is an abandoned lot where 15 to 20 drunks were mulling around with their bottles wrapped in brown paper bags. It was only 8:30 in the morning. Among all the broken glass on the sidewalk, there was a dope bag with little elephants on it. X said he would bet that that was part of the reason for the homicide. Not that specific bag, but dope in general. The news report said the shooting was believed to be gang related. X and I attempted to photograph this location last time we were out, but after pulling up and watching someone get served from a car parked directly in front of B&B and seeing another man sitting in a van parked in the lot next to us watching us watch the transaction, we decided to come back.
From there we drove to the 4400 block of West Wilcox where Terrance Jackson was shot and killed on the street near a vacant lot. It was on the same side of the street on the other end of the block from where Wesley Taylor was killed earlier in the summer. This block also houses the Hefferan Elementary School that takes up half of the south side of the street. On the opposite corner from the site there was a newer looking building where 5 or 6 boys were hanging out in the hallway with the front door open. As I photographed, a young woman walked down the sidewalk into my frame. As she got closer, she spread her arms and posed for me to take her picture. We laughed; she smiled and wished us a good day. X found another dope bag on the ground. This one was solid black.
The sign across the street from the site of Jackson's murder
The next site was in the 4000 block of West Jackson where 18-year-old Anthony Carter was standing outside his home waiting for his grandmother to return from a neighborhood store with snacks. As his grandmother approached with potato chips and pop, she heard the sound of eight or nine gunshots fired. Carter was shot multiple times in the back. When officers arrived at the scene they found him unresponsive. As we turned onto the block, X pointed out that there were two dope spots running out of houses on either side of the street near the corner. Just a half block away was the site. The house was a beautiful grey stone with a well-manicured adjacent lot. A tall wrought iron fence surrounded both the house and the lot. Amongst all the garbage that blew into the grass between the street and the sidewalk, a small bunch of stark white flowers popped up in contrast. I wondered whether it was a memorial to the boy.
The following location was on the playground of the Delano Elementary School in the 3900 block of West Wilcox. Reggie Coles was watching or playing basketball at about 12:30 am on July 17th when shots were fired into the crowd. He was struck in the face and killed. At the site there were two basketball courts in a large blacktopped area next to the back doors to the school. The warm sun was casting long shadows from the hoops across the bare ground. The immediate area was quiet, but not far away at the corner of Wilcox and Springfield a group of boys were hanging out in the street and on the sidewalk. From where I was it appeared to have all the makings of a dope spot. While we were photographing a young man approached us and asked X if he could direct him to the drug treatment center. When X didn’t know where it was, the young man looked worried. He wandered off. X thought that in such an open space surrounded by buildings on three sides that there must still be evidence of the shooting. We walked around the school looking at the walls and windows. It was way high up on the school doors that we found a bullet hole. X and I talked about how sad it is that kids have to go to school in a place where there is evidence of violence. It’s not fair that a school has to look like a war zone. As we passed, X pointed out the corner with all the boys hanging out. He named a few of them and told me about some of their prior arrests. He also confirmed my suspicions that it was in fact a drug corner.
The next spot was in the 700 block of North Monticello Avenue where Isaac Davis III was found shot in the head in the street at 1:00 in the afternoon on August 12th. X warned me that this street was busy and that by now it might be difficult to photograph. He really knows the area and was completely right. We pulled up and parked in front of a Head Start across the street from the address of the site. On the corner just north of us there was an active dope spot where a group of men were idling. Down the street in the opposite direction, a group of young men and at least one woman spilled out onto the porch of a house and were arguing loudly. I set up my camera to photograph down the street, making sure not to point it at anyone’s house, and tried to settle my nerves. A man came to the fence in front of the house beside us and began to talk to X. He asked X what we were doing and X told him it was for Google maps. The man responded, “Is that that compurter thing?” X nodded. The man said, “Shit and they send you to the West Side?” X said he was a police officer and had worked in the district. The man then recognized him and said that X had helped him out once. He thanked him profusely. I finally looked up at him and saw that he was leaning on the chain link fence with a bottle in a brown paper bag. I tried not to stare, but it looked like he was missing an eye. I kept taking little peeks at him as he was talking to X. He mentioned that he just likes his drink and that he doesn’t bother anyone but gets his ass beat all the time. I was looking through the lens when X said, “OK, are you ready?” I picked up the camera and got in the car. This was an odd thing for him to say, so I figured something was wrong or felt off. We quickly went to the car and pulled off. As we drove away I saw two of the men from the dope spot walking in our direction. As soon as we passed them, they turned around and went back to where they came.
We still had some time and so we headed to the 2700 block of West 24th Street in Little Village where someone shot Jennifer Alvarado from a passing car while she was in the passenger seat of another moving vehicle. She was the last casualty of the summer. X said the area was plagued with gang activity. He pointed out a house where a bunch of gang members live with their girlfriends. The address where the car that Alvarado was in came to a stop was in front of a large three-flat. A man was reading the paper on the porch of the hose next door. I was about to get out of the car when a man walked through the breezeway at the location and stood looking out at the street from behind the gate. He retreated to the back and we got out an began to photograph. I got in a few images before the man returned to the front of the building and sat on the front porch. He watched us, but seemed unconcerned.
The last location we went to was in the 1100 block of West Madison Street in the West Loop. Paul Harris was shot across the street from a bar following an argument with an unknown assailant who took out a gun and shot him shot just after 1:00 a.m. on the 31st of August. This stretch of Madison Street is the thriving business district for the area and the site where Harris was shot and killed is right in the heart of the area’s nightlife. The West Loop is full of old factory buildings that have been converted to lofts and condominiums for a wealthy demographic. This site was far from the cities most problemed areas and therefore got much more press than some of the other murders. The CTA bus shell on the corner where he was killed had an advertisement on one side for bottled water and on the other side was an ad for Bebe.
After this outing, I only have 17 more locations to visit. I hope to be done with the photographing portion of the project by next week. Here's what's left.