AUSTIN — Despite a shooting that left him paralyzed, Keith Cunningham's personality never changed.
"He was a good kid, liked to laugh all the time," his mother, Maxine Cunningham said, smiling. "[He was] kind of bossy. He sometimes thought he was my daddy."
Keith Cunningham died Friday in what authorities classified a homicide. Cunningham, 36, died from sepsis after a bullet to the neck from a 1993 shooting left him a quadriplegic. He was pronounced dead at 9:20 p.m in a nursing home in the city's Uptown neighborhood, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office.
Maxine Cunningham said her son was "kindhearted," especially to his 11-year-old niece.
"Anything his niece wanted, he would try [to get it,]" she said. "He would get his check, and he would say, 'Momma, go buy her a pair of gym shoes.' "
Keith Cunningham, then 16 years old, was standing with friends on the front porch of a Humboldt Park home when two gunman began firing at them. Cunningham was hit in the neck and the back.
His mother said she was told the shooting was a case of mistaken identity.
After the shooting, Maxine Cunningham said her son spent a year in Michigan at a rehabilitation center and another few years living at a rehabilitation center in Chicago. In 1997, he moved back to his home for good, where she took care of him until he had a string of health problems beginning in January 2012.
Maxine Cunningham said her son's health began to deteriorate in January 2012, with his complaints of stomach pain. She said doctors told her it was a kidney infection. She said Keith Cunningham had been in and out of the hospital and nursing home ever since.
Maxine Cunningham did not have a strong reaction to the news that her son's death was attributed to the shooting. She said she believes her son's shooter is also dead.
She said about a year after her son was shot she heard "through the grapevine" that the man responsible had been killed.
"I would have felt better if they would have caught him and put him in jail," she said.