X picked me Tuesday morning as the sun was coming up, we stopped and got some coffee, and we headed to the South Side where most of the remaining sites to visit were located. Our first spot was in the 2000 block of East 71st Street where 64-year-old Mobolaji Osho was struck by gunfire as he walked out of Jeffery Submarine Sandwich Shop at 2:00 in the afternoon on the 13th of August. The shots, not meant for him, came from an attacker firing at a group of teens near the store. X and I were here a few weeks ago and decided that we should come back. It was very busy with sketchy looking characters and there was an active drug corner just a few storefronts from the site. We went here first in hopes that we would make it before the day’s action began. I photographed from across the street, which was divided by the Metra train tracks. There were just a few people out walking to work and the bus stop. Once of the other side of the street I could see a huge hoard of people on the far corner waiting for the bus in front of a large retail store that read in huge white letters “WIGS.” As I took pictures X would warn me when someone was going to walk into my frame. One of the men that walked by eyed us. When we got back in the car, X said he thought it was the closest we’ve ever come to trouble. I was so involved in photographing that I didn’t notice the aggression the man displayed.
On the way to the next site, we passed a park where there was a group of twenty or so older people out for a walk together. One of the men in the front of the pack was holding a baseball bat. Where were we that these people couldn’t even walk in the park without a bat for protection?
It was a long ride to the next site on the Far South Side in the 10700 block of South Indiana where 8-year-old Tanaja Stokes was also shot and killed by misdirected gunfire. Stokes and another young girl were jumping rope on the sidewalk when two people rode up on bikes and opened fire. Tanaja was shot in the head and died within an hour. Her 5-year-old cousin Ariana Jones was also shot in the head and was sent to the hospital in critical condition. Officials are investigating whether a fight about 20 minutes earlier might have led to the shooting. The fight involved three teens -- two girls and a boy. A group of about 20 teens surrounded the fighting youths, screaming, holding back the boys, and calling each other names. Once the teens stopped fighting, six girls including the one who fought left the scene in a white four-door car. About 10 minutes later, six gunshots rang out to the south on Indiana. I was by this site closer to the date that it occurred and the front steps to the girls’ home were covered in stuffed animals. Someone was sitting on the porch reading so I thought I should come back. Today it was pretty quiet. Someone in the house peeked through the curtains at us as I set up my camera, but didn’t come out. Many of the houses on the street had kids toys in the front yard. A few houses down a group of young girls gathered to walk to school together. As we were leaving a man parked in front of the house, walked up to the front door and entered inside. I was sure that if someone in the house asked what I was doing that I would get a good response, but I wanted to remain invisible and not serve as any kind of reminder to them of what happened.
Next we went to the site of Anthony Anglin’s murder in the 10800 block of South Sangamon. It was here that two masked men forced their way into his home at around 1 a.m., ransacked the house and shot him in the chest. Anglin's son, another woman were also home at the time. Soon afterwards, Morgan Park District police stopped a car without its lights on. They questioned three men inside and, after noticing their "nervousness," patted them down. On two of the men, they found black masks and more than $2,000 in cash. All three men were taken into custody. This was another location that I was at once before. The last time I was here, just minutes after getting out of the car to photograph, a car pulled up and two very well dressed men got out. They walked up and sat on the front stoop. They looked distraught. I got back in the car and said I wanted to come back. This time there was no one around save for two old women that were talking in a driveway five or six houses away. The houses on the block were all very nice with large front yards and their own driveways and the neighborhood seemed quaint and safe. Anglin’s driveway had two cars parked in it and one in the street right in front. Again I tried to be as invisible as possible. This was another site that I felt that my presence might just be a sobering reminder.
The site where David Buckner was killed not too far from there in Ada Park in the 1300 block of West 112th Street. After a fight began in the park there, Buckner’s group and another group began shooting at each other. Buckner was the only one killed, but there were four others shot in the confrontation. The incident happened in the northwest corner of the park near a playground and picnic area. On the south side of the swing set, there was a tree with blue graffiti on it that read, “BDN LSK9.” X said it was Black Disciple Nation writing and that the K had something to do with killing. It was too early for the playground and surrounding park to be busy, but I imagine a place so central to the neighborhood would still be full of activity at 8:00 pm on a Saturday night in August.
Only 2 ½ blocks north in the 11000 block of South Loomis was where 17-year-old Marquita Jamieson was stabbed to death during a knife fight. A woman that she knew at her home stabbed her in the neck after having a verbal altercation that escalated over a fight that their relatives were having over a boy. Jamieson was reportedly walking away when she was grabbed and stabbed by the offender, who is also 17. Between the park and the site of her death there were three churches. One sat on a large lot directly across the street from the sidewalk she was killed on. The sun was still coming up and casting beautiful shadows on the wooden fence from the small trees that lined the street by her home. One of the windows was covered with a Spiderman sheet. While I was photographing a beat up van pulled off to the side down the street and disposed of a bunch of garbage in the road then went on his way.
The next location was in the 1000 block of West 103rd Street at a CITGO gas station in Washington Heights where Eric Hughes was shot multiple times while sitting in his vehicle. The report read that he was shot in the thigh. X said he must have been shot in the femoral artery if it was what killed him. 103rd Street is a busy thoroughfare that must also be a route for local kids to walk to school. The south side of the street was lined with Safe Passage workers in their bright yellow safety vests helping kids safely get to school.
Following that, we went to the site where 19-year-old Kirklinn Fowlkes’ was shot and killed. He and two friends were sitting on the porch of his home in the 2900 block of West 81st Street when they got into an argument with another group who opened fire on them. Fowlkes was shot in the back, another boy sustained a graze wound and the third got away with only a broken wrist as he jumped off the porch to escape. Cook County court records show Fowlkes was charged in June with felony aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, a case that was still pending in court. The block that all this happened on was suprising. The houses were all bungalow style with slight variations in the porch structures, but otherwise almost identical. They all had small front lawns and most had potted plants embellishing the their front stoops. The house where the incident occurred a cat was stretched out in the front bay window enjoying the warmth of the sun. To the side of him there was a small sign that read, “We call police.”
Our next site was an area a bit further west in the 4300 block of West 87th Street in the Ashburn neighborhood where Octavio Pena was found unresponsive in the street with a gunshot wound to his face. The location fell in the street in front of the huge Hometown Christian Church that sat on the corner of 87th Street and Kostner and whose parking lot took up the remaining block that the building itself didn’t cover. This part of 87th Street has two lanes in either direction with a median in the middle. X and I went out into the center of the road to photograph the site. There was a man standing by his car on the south side of the street who watched us walk out there. X said he was keeping an eye on us the whole time. Eventually he crossed the two lanes and joined us in the center. He politely said, “Excuse me, but can I ask why you’re photographing the church?” X told him that I was not interested in the church, but in the homicide that happened there. The man said he lived in the neighborhood and didn’t even hear about it until the next day. X told him that there were 167 homicides in the city over the summer months. The man shook his head and talked about how easily people kill each other. He said that if someone has no respect for their own life, how could they have respect for someone else’s. After a few minutes of conversation, he wished me luck, crossed back over the two lanes, hopped in his car and sped off.
From here we headed north to the 6700 block of South Tripp Avenue where Jovanni Gudino was shot in the head while sitting in a vehicle outside of his home. After passing the side street several times, the address finally brought us to a block where almost every house had some kind of Halloween decorations. The tree-lined street was awash with fallen leaves, which added to the festive fall feeling. The site where Gudino was shot was right in front of a large tree in the front yard of a home that I assume was his. The tree’s branches were thick and bare, leaving a skeletal view of the sky. I could tell Midway Airport was close by because the planes flying overhead looked as if they were going to land on the roofs of the nearby houses. In the front window of the house there was a small sign that said “Happy Halloween.”
Just one block west and six blocks north of there in a garage in the 6100 block of South Kildare, Alonso Villarreal, Roberto Rivera, Noel Casares, and Luis Santillian were bound with duct tape and shot execution style at around 8:30 pm on September 3rd. The killings appeared to be drug related and the police found multiple weapons on the scene. As we drove there, X told me that of all the places we’ve been this is the one that really scared him to visit. He said it was a cartel drug house and that those guys mean business. They don’t mess around. He was relieved by the fact that the house couldn’t be a drug house anymore after this incident, but was still uneasy. First we drove by the front of the house to get a look at it and count off lots so that we could find the right garage. It was a nice brick house in a neighborhood where all the lots were well taken care of and the neighborhood houses were decorated for the fall holidays. Red couches and blue recycling bins flanked the garage where the execution happened. There was a small gash in the lower left hand corner of the garage door that X pointed out. He said it might be a bullet hole, but he wasn’t sure. Kids toys were strewn out in backyard of the house, but it looked like they were left there unintentionally, as if the residents up and left in a hurry. Despite X’s concern, we made it out unscathed and headed to our next location.
18-year-old Luis Perez was killed on the corner of 57th Street and Sawyer Avenue when a group approached him in a car, shouted gang slurs, and then shot him. Police responded to the call around 4:40 pm and found Perez with a gunshot wound to the cheek. Sawyer was a sleepy street just one black off of busy Kedzie Avenue. When we pulled up, a man and woman were coming out of the front door of the house on the corner where the incident happened. Their home was white wood with a huge porch lined with potted plants. They took a bit of time to make it down the front stairs and walk off, so X and I sat in the car and waited.
At this point it was close to lunchtime so if we were going to press on, we needed to eat. X knew about a good little neighborhood joint on Kedzie and 58th Street called Nicky’s so we stopped and had some lunch there. There was a policewoman eating at a table by herself. X joked, “See another display of the cop diet.” I asked why she was alone and he told me that she was a sergeant and that lots of officers on days have to ride alone because of the shortage of police. They need more coverage so they have to go out on their own. He said that was why he wanted to get off days. He felt that he was less effective when he had no one to back him up. After we were filled with greasy food, we continued on our way.
The next location was close by in the 5800 block of South Campbell where 17-year-old Adolfo Guijardo-Soria was standing outside at a block party when he was struck in the head by gunfire. On the corner where he was killed, was a large hand written block club sign with kids hand prints in all different colors that read “NO speeding, litering (misspelled on sign), drug use, soliciting, loud music after hours, gang activity.” Under which it said in big bubble letters, “Drive slow. Kids at play.” Behind the sign on the corner lot, was a house that was under construction. Four or five men were moving materials in and out. Passing through my frame without a single look in my direction. Low on the fence that surrounded the property was a small bouquet of white plastic flowers. They must have been part of a memorial that was left there.
The location we went to next was one that I have passed up several times for various reasons. Once there were people sitting on the front stoop and another time there were a group of kids hanging out near a van that was parked in front of the house. While X was afraid of the cartel, I was afraid of this location in the 6800 block of South Wood Street where on the 31st of July 2-year-old Aniya Crockett died from injuries sustained from child abuse. I knew that there were other kids living in the house because I saw them on the porch, and I knew that the mother of the child was not the one that was responsible for her death. An investigation by the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services was opened on one of Crockett’s mother’s friends. I felt horrible pointing my camera at the house and photographing where a family, most likely torn, resided. It didn’t appear that there was anyone home, but I tried to make my images as quickly as possible. I noticed a sticker in the front window of the home. It was slightly torn and it read, “Don’t shoot. I want to grow up.” My heart sank.
From here we went to another location I had been by a few times before. The first time I was there, I photographed the house where James Evan was stabbed and killed not realizing that 18-year-old Shaudee Nance was killed on the sidewalk in front of the house right next door in the 7000 block of South Hermitage Avenue. When I went back, it was a half-day of school and there were a group of children on the sidewalk in front of the house right on the sidewalk where he was shot. This time it was quiet except for the voice of a man in the backyard of the next house down. Two tiny yellow chairs like the kind that you might see in a kindergarten classroom were on the sidewalk in front at the site. It was hard to look at all the indications of young children in the neighborhood and think about the violence that just this one block sustained over the summer.
Our last location for the day was in the 6400 block of South Morgan Street where Theresa Russell was found shot to death over Labor Day weekend. The site fell in front of a row of identical brick two-flats. The one directly behind the sidewalk where she was found had an orange sticker on the front door announcing that the utilities were going to be turned off. The house next door had tall unkempt grass and weeds that grown so big that someone had placed beer can over some of the taller brush. The grass between the street and the sidewalk was filled with empty bottles of booze, fliers and discarded chip bags. X said he wanted to go check something out and threw me the keys to the car. He told me to start it and he would be right there. When I got in this is what I saw.
He found it on the ground and placed it there to make me laugh.
After this outing I only have 2 more sites to photograph. I am slated to go out Friday morning to finish up.