BRAINERD — Nedra Wilson sat in her living room rattling off stories about her oldest son, Jerrell Brooks.
The 28-year-old had always been sarcastic, earning him the nickname "smart ass," she said, but he had a smart sense of humor and was funny, even if he did think he knew everything.
Since he was a kid, he always loved bugs and reptiles. He had a pet lizard he called "Lizzy Man," she said, and he was always feeding the thing mice.
And even though Brooks loved to grill ribs, he always burned them, without fail.
"He wasn't a good cook at all," Wilson said with a laugh. "I tried to teach him how to cook, but some men, they just don't grasp it."
Wilson sat by a living room table that had been covered in condolence cards, but she said she had put them all away. She just couldn't look at them.
"It's really hard," she said. "I just keep thinking about Jerrell, can't stop thinking about him."
On Aug. 18, the 28-year-old Brooks was killed in a drive-by shooting a few blocks away from his home in the 9200 block of South Aberdeen Street, authorities said.
That night, Brooks had gone to the store with his brother, his mother said. About 9:50 p.m., he and his brother were sitting in a car in the 1300 block of West 90th Street when another car pulled up alongside of their car and someone began shooting.
Brooks was shot in the head and was taken to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office, where he was pronounced dead about 1:40 a.m.
His brother was shot in the shoulder and was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.
After the shooting, police said Brooks and his brother did not have known gang affiliations.
He also found part-time work here and there, said Lenora Wilson, Brooks' grandmother.
But Brooks' real ambition was to go back to school and become a truck driver, eventually buying his own truck, Nedra Wilson said.
Family said it was a "full house" at Brooks' funeral service on Saturday, with about 600 people attending. That included Brooks' four young children, ages 7, 5, 3 and 9 months.
Wilson said she called Brooks' and his kids "the five J's" because they all had 'J' names. Family said more than anything else, Brooks was a dedicated father and was especially close with his oldest daughter, Janelle.
"She loved everything he loved: worms, little roly-polys, that little lizard," she said. "I hated that lizard. Ugh."
Wilson said at the funeral, the kids were too young to understand their father had died.
"The 5-year-old, he wants to know if his dad is still gonna take them to the park like they used to, and I told him no because he has to be in heaven now," she said.
No one was in custody in connection with the murder as of Tuesday, and Wilson said officers told her they are not sure what happened.
Family said their "quiet" and "boring" neighborhood does not usually experience shootings, although it saw another shooting just a days before Brooks was killed.
And Dominic Hudson, a cousin who had come from Michigan for the funeral, said Brooks' death shocked him because his cousin was not a "street guy."
Hudson, 26, said he and Brooks hung out with another cousin in their family growing up because the three were about the same age.
He said that cousin was also shot and killed about four years earlier in Chicago, but Hudson said the death was not surprising because the cousin was involved in gangs.
"With that, it's only a matter of time," he said. "Either you gonna be in jail or you gonna be in a grave."
But Brooks wasn't a gangbanger, Hudson said.
Between recalling memories of her son riding skateboards or playing football in high school, Nedra Wilson wondered what her son's killer was doing.
"I wonder what he's doing right now. You think he's OK with what he did?" she asked. "I want to look at him. I just want to see what a murderer looks like."
And if she could look him in the eye, Wilson said she'd have one question.
"I just want to know why," she said. "That's it, I just want to know why he did it.
"Why did he do it?"