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Family Says Prison Changed Austin Man, But Violence Still Took His Life

By DNAinfo Staff on January 14, 2013 2:36pm

 Vernon Commings, 26, was shot and killed Jan. 10 in the 4900 block of West Polk Street in Austin.
Vernon Commings, 26, was shot and killed Jan. 10 in the 4900 block of West Polk Street in Austin.
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AUSTIN — Vernon Commings used his years in prison to write a memoir about his life on Chicago’s West Side streets.

It was those streets — where he sold drugs, played basketball and hung out with friends —that claimed his life Jan. 10, authorities said.

Commings, 26, was shot and killed in the 4900 block of West Polk Street in Austin, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office and Chicago police.

His mother, Latanya Norris, said her son had spent many of his days in prison for drug and gang-related crimes.

Commings, known as “Booc” on the streets, had been sentenced to six years in prison after a conviction for being a felon and using or having a gun, court records show. He also had a 2009 conviction for possession of a controlled substance and was sentenced to one year in prison, court records show.

Norris said her son was most recently released from prison in September 2011.

During his time in prison Commings wrote his autobiography, titled “The Young Players,” Norris said.

"It's the end of May so summer was about 2 begin in 20 odd days," Commings began the first chapter. “The drug traffic was somethan unreal …. Booc notice all this traffic as he was playing with his childhood friend Fatlord. He was trying 2 showouf cause all the bigtime drug dealers was watching." 

The memoir amounted to 200 pages scrawled on blue-lined notebook paper. Norris said she’s working to get her oldest son’s writing published.

Norris said the six-year prison term changed her son. When he went in, he was most concerned with keeping tabs on what was going on in the streets of his neighborhood.

His concerns later evolved into getting back in touch with his father’s family, becoming closer with his four siblings and finding a job.

"I've always told all of my children that if you go out there and do something you shouldn't be doing, you have to deal with the consequences,” Norris said. “I think he grew up to be a man and knew he could no longer go back and do the same things that would send him to jail."

Commings completed his GED while in prison and also earned a certificate in carpentry. When he was released from prison he worked repair and odd jobs with family members, Norris said.

Norris said Commings was raised spiritually and often attended church with his grandmother. He also helped the elderly in the neighborhood and was a fixture in neighborhood basketball tournaments.

He wrote about a basketball ritual in his neighborhood:

"Everytime right before the summer start all the older lords like Big Red, Scrill, Teddy and Doley always bought basketball rims... put them in the school lot. They use 2 love seeing they shorties playing they hearts out 2 impress them."