For some reason, after a good night’s sleep last night, this morning necessitated coffee. After X picked me up, we swung by Starbucks. I got my latte and I got X an old fashioned donut...typical. We decided to visit the homicide sites on the south side that were to the east of the expressway. Beginning at around 35th Street, there were 8 sites, one just south of the next, all the way down to 63rd Street.
The first site we visited was at 3520 South Lake Park Avenue where Zohntil Lemon was shot and killed at 1:35 in the afternoon on November 4th of last year. Lake Park is the furthest street you can go to before you hit Lake Shore drive in this area. Just to the north of the site was Douglas Monument Park where Stephen A. Douglas’ tomb is. Just inside the gates of the park I could see a small caretaker’s house. X was puzzled by how he never even knew the park existed. The site was on the sidewalk outside of the iron gates of a parking are that was attached to a large retirement home. On the opposite side of the street, right on Lake Shore was a branch of The Archdiocese of Chicago. The building was adorned with arched windows and ample surveillance cameras. They had to have caught the shooting on video.
The next location was just a few blocks to the southwest at 3950 South Vincennes Avenue. 18-year-old Michael Frazier Jr. was with a friend standing on the sidewalk when someone ran out of an alley firing shots. Frazier was hit in the chest and died within an hour. The sidewalk was along a huge vacant area that was about 4 lots big. The chain-linked fence that once surrounded it was gone, but the vertical poles that held it in place were still standing. The building to the corner on the southwest side of the street had a big sign on it announcing “luxury apartments for rent.” Ironically the building was flanked by two abandos, one a boarded up gray stone and the other the now defunct Holy Angels Elementary School. To the north at the corner of Pershing and Vincennes, three older gentlemen were chatting on the corner. One of the men was selling newspapers at the red light.
Artfully placed beer bottels
From here we went to 4343 South Michigan Avenue. Interestingly, the four-lane road that runs straight through downtown Chicago turns on way in this part of town. All four lanes push traffic south. Derrick Dowdell was found stabbed to death in the first-floor hallway of the apartment building at the address. The building has since been abandoned. The first floor door and windows were covered in plywood stamped with “Chicago Board-Up Service” in red ink. There was an eviction notice posted on the wood over the front door along with a “Keep Out” sign and a notice of foreclosure by the Bank of America that was dated July 11, 2011. Two beer bottles in brown paper bags were placed artfully on the front steps. As I was photographing there, a young man with identification on a lanyard around his neck came up to talk to me. His name was Keify K. He handed me a CD and asked if I knew anyone that made videos. X told him that I was a still photographer. He expressed interest in photographs as well. I told him I would listen to the music, made sure his contact info was on the disc and told him I would let him know if I found anyone that might want to help him. He smiled, thanked us, and went on his way.
My personal favorite song title = Happy Birthday Facebook
As we drove to the next site, we passed the Swift Mansion at 48th Street and Ellis Avenue. The mansion was built by the famous meatpacking giant Gustavus Swift in 1898. It’s now owned by the Chicago Urban League and is covered in signs that were both handwritten and printed on vinyl. On the very corner of the lot, on a big pole, was a 1950s style motel sign announcing the presence of the mansion.
The next site was just 1 block south of the Swift Mansion at 4947 South Michigan Avenue. It was here that Steven Billups was found with a gunshot wound to the head in his apartment. There were no signs of forced entry so the circumstances of the murder were unclear. The building was a typical Chicago style brick 6-flat. Directly across the street was an abando, but the rest of the block looked similar to the building Billups lived in. It was very quiet there except for the sound of cars speeding by Michigan Avenue.
We drove further south on Michigan Avenue to the vacant lot at 5331 where 44-year-old Kara Murray was found dead from multiple trauma and assault on November 13th. There were a few vacant lots on the block where she was found, but they were all gated. The site she was found was open both to the street and to the alley in the rear. A black Range Rover was parked in the front of the lot closest to the street. When we pulled into the alley to photograph, a man was walking his pitbull on the lot. We watched him and waited in the car. He must have thought we were al little suspicious when we jumped out of the car as soon as he stepped off the property. The trees from the surrounding lots were overgrown forming a kind of tunnel that seemed to trap all the neighborhood trash.
After this, X took a look at the next few locations and said that we would have to skip them today. It was too nice out and people were coming out of the woodwork. The places he decided to skip were within a block of each other jut off of 63rd and Cottage. As we drove down Cottage I could see the neighborhood changing. The increase in people out on the streets was directly proportional to the number of boarded up buildings. X pointed out an apartment building where he picked up a guy with an Uzi this past year.
We skipped down to 6608 South Marquette Road where Solomon Dunwoody was shot and killed while sitting in his car at 10:30 a.m. on December 9th. The location code I had was residential yard/vehicle so I was expecting a driveway and a yard, but the location turned out to be a building that sat flush with the sidewalk. I photographed the street in front of the address thinking that I must have had something wrong. After finishing that, X went around the back of the building just to double check. We found a landing pad in the rear. This was where it happened. Unfortunately there was a Comcast truck parked in the drive and a worker was going in and out of the house. We would have to come back to this one again.
My favorite random find of the day
After that we headed way west to 6103 South Sacramento where 18-year-old Daniel Delorean was shot and killed while on his way to his sisters house. Before he was shot he made a call to his twin brother telling him that he thought someone was following him. The block was mostly single-family homes with a few smaller apartment buildings. When we pulled up, a young man who was on the corner walked back down the side street. He returned a few minutes later when a girl pulled up to pick him up. Up about a half a block X watched a young lady get into a maroon van that had a city impound sticker on the back window. He pointed it out and told me that it was illegal to drive the car if it had the sticker. When we pulled away from the location, the woman in the maroon van pulled out in front of us. The car had no license plates and I could see where she had peeled the sticker off the back window. X commented that he would love to be able to patrol in his own car. He would see much more interesting things.
The next site we visited was at 2509 West 51st Street where Kirk Orellana was shot in the neck and killed in the alley off a busy thoroughfare. The site was behind a row of houses that all had tall fences cordoning off their backyards. One of the gates had a big sign that read, “Beware of Dog.” While I was photographing, X noticed some ribbon that was still tied around the handle of one of the garbage cans. He thought it might still be there from a memorial for Orellana if there was one.
The last site we went to today was at 928 West 50th Street. Ana Rosa Gonzalez was shot and killed while driving her car. The car came to rest at this address after crashing into a fence. We found the address and I photographed. As we left, X asked me if the address was 50th Street or 50Th Place? I told him it was street. We photographed the wrong location again! We turned back around and drove to the right location. X was weirded out by the block so he said we’d come back. I will always trust his intuition.
Fallen police and firefighter memorial in Back of the Yards
We tried for one last spot, but were unsuccessful. It was too nice out and getting too late in the day.