Blood stains and a make shift memorial for 18-year-old Jamal Jones is seen where police found him with gunshots wounds to the shoulder and chest over the past weekend, on Chicago's Southside on June 17.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
As she headed out the door Sunday morning, Adrianne Wilberton put on a brave face. It was time to tell her son the news, and she didn't want him hearing it from anyone else.
But her composure unraveled as she walked toward the car, a barrage of neighbors hugging her on the way out of her apartment. By the time she reached the front lawn, the mother of six was in tears.
"Our son is dead! Oh, Jesus!" the 57-year-old screamed, referring to Cortez, one of her three sons, who was killed earlier that morning on Chicago's West Side. "Oh my God! Oh my God! We were just talking."
At least 28 people were shot -- six of them fatally -- Saturday afternoon into Father's Day Sunday, stretching from 94th Street and Loomis Avenue on the South Side up to about North Avenue and North Pulaski Road on the Northwest Side, according to authorities. The youngest person killed during one of the bloodiest weekends this year in Chicago was 16.
The rash of violent crime came as Chicago has seen a large dip in overall homicide and shooting numbers this year.
When asked whether this weekend's shooting numbers cast doubt on the department's crime-fighting strategies, Chicago police spokesman Adam Collins insisted they are working, noting the city in 2013 has posted its lowest homicide totals in years.
Collins also reiterated a position that police Superintendent Garry McCarthy has expressed throughout the year when discussing the department's crime-fighting efforts. "There's going to be good days, and there's going to be bad days, which is why we've been calling this progress, not victory," said Collins, who pointed out drops in overall crime.
Shootings from Friday afternoon into Saturday left an additional 13 people shot, 1 fatally. The combined tally resulted in 40 people shot, and seven killed this weekend. Last year at about the same time, there were 53 people shot, nine fatally in one weekend.
Across the city, reminders of the bloody weekend literally stained some of Chicago's streets. In the city's Little Village neighborhood, 15 lit memorial candles stood in blood where Ricardo Herrera, 21, was fatally wounded and two others shot on the 2500 block of South Ridgeway Avenue.
About five miles away, a long trail of blood remained splattered in a Northwest Side alley -- and on the bumper of a nearby car -- where 16-year-old Kevin Rivera tried to run from a gunman on a bicycle, authorities said.
Rivera's family was planning to move in two weeks from their sometimes violent section of the Hermosa neighborhood, and a social worker was enrolling the teenager in the city's summer jobs program.
But late Saturday, someone shot Rivera in the 4100 block of West North Avenue, police said. He tried to run but collapsed a few feet away. The boy, who lived a few blocks away from the scene, was pronounced dead about 1:35 a.m. Sunday at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, authorities said.
Grief-stricken and exhausted, Kevin Rivera's family said little about Rivera or his death. "I can't believe it," said Rivera's mother, Maria Figueroa.
One of six siblings, Rivera could be polite and soft-spoken at home, even as he became increasingly embroiled in neighborhood gang conflicts and faced juvenile court charges. Last year, he was shot in the leg, and he was briefly detained in the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center and placed on juvenile court probation for carrying an unloaded gun in the neighborhood, according to interviews with relatives.
His younger sister Yajaira Rivera last year was profiled in a Tribune investigation about elementary students who missed months of school each year. Rivera also missed weeks of school each year at Nobel Elementary School, where he earned an A in seventh-grade art class but failed basic courses and had run-ins with teachers and staff, school records and interviews show.
In a brief Tribune interview last year, Rivera said he had tried to register at Orr Academy High School but left after a couple of days because he didn't feel safe there. "There is a lot of tension," he said.
Social worker Emily Runyan, who lived in the neighborhood and befriended Rivera's family, was recently working to enroll Rivera in the city's One Summer Chicago teen jobs program.
"I don't want to memorialize him because he made some bad choices, but Kevin was a kind, quiet and sensitive kid," Runyan said. "I truly believe he wanted more for his life, but (he) was a victim of many things."
One of the men killed -- 24-year-old Antwon Johnson -- was shot by police early Sunday in the Lawndale neighborhood after he raised a 9 mm handgun in their direction after bailing from a moving car and falling, police said.
His mother disputed that account. "It's not true," said Stacy Liberty. "How could someone have a gun and point it to you if they're already on the ground?"
Liberty said the car had been lurching down the block because the people in the car were trying to identify an address. The presence of a police car behind them must have made Johnson nervous, his mother said.
Johnson had been convicted three times for drug-related charges stemming to 2006, according to court records. He suffered three gunshot wounds almost two years ago, she said.
But the father of two 5-year-old sons was trying to get his life back on track, she said.
"He hasn't been in trouble in a while," said Liberty, who rushed to the scene and recalled seeing her son's body in the alley. "He was trying to get his stuff together. Black men on the street today, it's tough for them to get a job because the first thing (employers) look at is their record."
Another victim was 40-year-old Todd Wood, who authorities said was killed after a gunman opened fire at a club in the city's Grand Crossing neighborhood. Three others were wounded in that attack, police said.
Several hours after club shooting, Cortez Wilberton, 31, was added to the homicide list. Wilberton had seen plenty of his friends shot over the years, but hit a turning point a few years back when his best friend was killed, his sister said. A former gang member, Wilberton had a criminal record that included at least 30 arrests, according to court records.
"That's when he said, 'That's enough of this here ... I don't want to be bothered by all this nonsense,'" said his sister Tanya Wilberton, 37.
So he left the gang and started focusing his energy on his three children, one of whom was born earlier this month, she said. He liked to take his children -- two girls and a boy -- to the park and watch the older ones ride their bikes, his mother and sister said.
Sometime early last year, Wilberton was shot in the stomach during a robbery and had to leave his a job as a security guard at a local store, his sister said.
Still recovering from reconstructive surgery, he mostly stayed indoors at night, but he was gunned down at 1:35 a.m. on the 200 block of South Keeler Avenue in the Austin neighborhood. A 31-year-old woman also was shot, suffering a graze wound on her face, police said.
Around the time Wilberton's family gathered Sunday morning to mourn, Karen Sumner received a call at work telling her to hurry home because police officers wanted to talk about her 19-year-old son.
"I hope my son's not dead," Sumner remembers saying. "Please, I hope my son's not dead."
But when she arrived at the family's West Chatham home, officers delivered the news she feared most.
Her son, Jamal Jones, was shot at about 1:15 a.m. Sunday while riding his bike home from a family member's house through the 7400 block of South Parnell Avenue in the Englewood neighborhood, police and relatives said. He died about an hour later.
Jones was a friendly, motivated young man who steered away from trouble and was always eager to work, according to relatives. He'd sometimes peddle bottled water to passing cars on 79th Street when he couldn't find construction work, his mother said.
Jones' uncle, Travis Sumner, said his nephew was a reliable member of his roofing crew. Jones worked as the ground man, picking up trash and making sure supplies got up to the laborers on the roof.
"He worked hard," the uncle said. "He stayed busy all the time."
On Sunday afternoon, family members returned to the shooting scene. They found the bike Jones had been riding and needles left over from paramedics.
As she recalled getting ready for her job at Jewel-Osco on Sunday morning, Karen Sumner said it was odd that her son wasn't there to say goodbye when she left the house at 3:30 a.m. At that time, she still hadn't heard the news.
"He would always greet me at the door and kiss me and say 'I love you,'" Karen Sumner said Sunday. "This morning, he didn't greet me."
Copyright 2013 - Chicago Tribune
McClatchy-Tribune News Service