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Roberto Clemente Students on Third Student Slain: 'I Don't Feel Safe'

By Quinn Ford | February 18, 2013 11:33am | Updated on February 18, 2013 12:39pm

WICKER PARK — As students filed inside Roberto Clemente Community Academy Monday morning, some paused to watch as a man tied balloons around the flagpole in front of the school.

The man with the balloons, Jose Colon, is the father of Frances Colon, a senior who was shot and killed in Humboldt Park Friday.

One young man who watched didn't know Frances Colon but said he knew another teen gunned down this year.

"My friend, Rey Dorantes, he was killed," the student said before school staff whisked him inside the building, telling him to go to class.

Dorantes, 14, was also a student at Clemente when he was gunned down in January, and a third Clemente student, Jeffrey Stewart, 16, was killed in December.

The deaths of the three students are a grim indication of how violence in Chicago is affecting the city's children. Of the 51 people slain in Chicago since the beginning of 2013, 10 have been 18 years old or younger.

School officials said Monday morning they are talking with students about the spate of violence that has rocked the school.

Lynette Huffman, a senior at Clemente, said she was not close friends with Frances, but she knew her as "quiet, friendly" and "into school."

"I don't feel safe nowhere, not in my own home, nowhere," Huffman said.

Despite the loss of students in the last three months, Huffman said shootings are not new to her. In 2010, another Clemente student and friend was killed, she said.

"I would like to see a lot change around here," Huffman said.

Another student, Maliza Dominguez, said she too would like to see some changes.

"We should have more cops on the streets," Dominguez said. "And we should tell the president to make bullets more expensive."

Dominguez, a junior, paused and smiled uncomfortably when asked if she feels safe coming to school. "No, not really, no," she said.

As the school bell sounded, Frances' dad remained outside. He said he dropped Frances off for school almost every day, right by the flagpole.

Colon said his daughter was planning to attend Northeastern Illinois University to stay close to home. She loved watching shows like "Judge Judy" and wanted to become a lawyer.

"She would have been one of the best," Colon said.

No arrests have been made in Frances' slaying, and police said they believe she was not the intended target.

On Friday, the night she died, her father drove by her dead body without realizing it.

"I had just picked up my other daughter from her friend's, and I was stopped at a light and saw blue flashing lights," said Colon. "I said, 'There are a lot of shootings in this area. You have to be careful.' I saw a cloth. I didn't know that was my daughter."

Frances was found in the 1100 block of North Pulaski Road with a fatal gunshot wound to her back around 7 p.m. Friday, police said.

Police said they do not believe Frances was the intended target. The 18-year-old had been at a nearby store during an argument between two men, her father said, based on conversations he said he had with store workers.

She was shot after stepping out of the store, her dad said.

Dorothy Payton, Frances' mother, said her daughter sometimes stayed out overnight, but always called when she did. When family hadn't heard from Frances for nearly a day, Payton said she began to worry.

She eventually learned of her daughter's death when police officers came to the teen's grandmother's house, not too far from where she was shot.

"She got killed right down the street from my mom's house," Payton said.

Family members said that Frances, the seventh of eight siblings, was going to attain her dreams, and they'd be there to support her.

"'Mama, I wanna be a lawyer,' she would say to me," Payton said. "I don't care what I have to do to achieve that dream. I'd take six jobs to pay for her books in college if I have to."

Payton said her daughter was also creative, stitching together new clothes out of old pillow cases, and cooking up delicious food with strange combinations.

"She would put ramen, cheese and meat together," said younger sister Selena Colon, 16. "It always turned out good!"

Last week, she watched two significant events on television with her father: the State of the Union address, where slain Chicago teen Hadiya Pendleton's parents sat next to Michelle Obama, and President Barack Obama's speech in Chicago, which touched on gun violence, Friday.

After Friday's event, hours before her death, Frances heard helicopters above their home, and was convinced it was President Obama headed out of town. Since Obama left Chicago Friday, two CPS students have been slain — Frances and 17-year-old Oscar Marquez, a student at Marine Math and Science Academy.

"I was hoping the thing he is trying to do with guns works," her father said.