Special Ed Teacher Killed by Stray Bullet Remembered as 'True Professional'

By Josh McGhee on May 30, 2014 12:12pm | Updated on May 30, 2014 1:10pm

ROSELAND — Teachers at Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep Academy are "devastated" by the death of a fellow instructor, reportedly killed by errant gunfire from gang members.

The special education teacher, Betty Howard, 58, was shot Thursday afternoon as she worked a second job at a real estate office in Chatham.

Howard, of west suburban Broadview, was pronounced dead at Northwestern Memorial Hospital at 6:12 p.m., according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office. She died of a gunshot to the back, an autopsy determined.

Howard was shot in her head about 5:25 p.m. Thursday in the 700 block of East 79th Street, according to police. She was working at a real estate office when a bullet tore through a wall at the agency striking her and others, the Tribune reported.

A 58-year-old man also suffered a graze wound to his stomach, and a 23-year-old woman suffered a graze wound on her hand during the incident. Both were treated on the scene, police said.

None appeared to be the intended target and were likely innocently caught in a gang conflict, the Tribune reported, quoting police sources.

Howard worked at the school for seven years, said D'Andre Weaver, principal of Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep, at 250 E. 111th St. in Roseland.

"She worked with students that needed the most support, and she did it willingly every single day," Weaver said. Howard made home visits, worked with kids before and after school and rode buses with children when aides were absent, he said.

Weaver called Howard "a true professional" who was "committed to the work of educating kids no matter what challenges they had."

Standing outside the school on Friday morning, Weaver added, "We truly miss her and love her, and we're really thinking about the family at this time."

"Today's a tough day, there's no doubt about it. Our kids and our staff have worked with Dr. Howard for a long time, and we truly feel a deep sense of hurt right now," Weaver said.

 Balloons are released in memory of teacher Betty Howard Friday.
Balloons are released in memory of teacher Betty Howard Friday.
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DNAinfo/Josh McGhee

Students at Brooks were writing letters Friday afternoon to deal with the tragedy. The letters will be read at a vigil run by the students after school, Weaver said. Balloons were released Friday morning outside the school.

Howard's brother Orlando Long is a Chicago police officer assigned to Roseland and has made a number of visits to the homes of family members of victims of fatal shootings.

"I know how other people feel now," Long told the Tribune.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said she visited the school Friday and spoke with staff, describing them as "devastated at the loss of their colleague and friend."

"Our fallen sister brings to mind the loss that we all feel for every child and adult who lives in the city and is a victim of deadly violence," a statement from Lewis said. "The seemingly random nature of this incident makes it all the more painful, and highlights the attention that must be given to neighborhoods where people face these tragedies on a daily basis."

Howard was one of the three people fatally shot on a violent Thursday, where eight others were hospitalized from shootings.

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