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Slain High School Senior Miguel Cancel Planned to Escape City's Violence

JEFFERSON PARK — Miguel "Mikey" Cancel had big plans, his family said.

After the 19-year-old Taft High School senior graduated in June, he and his grandmother, Mirna Resto, were planning to move to Florida so he could study computers at Valencia College.

“We went down [to my house] there a few weeks ago,” Resto, 60, said. “I bought him a new computer. I fixed up his whole room, bought him everything new.”

Cancel was eager to leave, she said.

“He said he was tired of this city,” Resto said. “He’s tired of not being able to wear what he wants, not being able to wear a hat without everybody thinking he’s a gangbanger. The killings and the shootings in this city are too much. Every week, some young kid dies.”

On Saturday, Cancel’s plans were cut short when he was gunned down while driving home from a party with his brother, Carlos Cancel, 21, and a friend.

According to police, Cancel’s car was stopped at a red light in the 4200 block of West Irving Park Road when a light-colored sedan pulled up next to him about 2:45 a.m.

“[The people in the sedan] started throwing gang signs,” Resto said. “Mikey’s not a gangbanger, but he had a hat on.”

A man got out of the sedan and began firing, police said, striking Cancel in the head and right shoulder.

He was taken to Stroger Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 9:05 a.m., according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Detectives said they believe the shooting was gang-related. According to police records, both Cancel and his brother are members of the Maniac Latin Disciple gang.

Resto, however, maintains her grandson was not in a gang and said the shooting was a case of mistaken identity.

“These gangbangers think that they can just kill innocent people,” Resto said. “[Cancel] went out on the wrong weekend. He went out with his brother, and he ended up dead.”

Resto described Cancel — who lived with her in the 5500 block of North Parkside Avenue — as a “funny, happy kid” who was “respectful” and well-liked.

“Everybody knew him as being a joker, a player,” she said. “And if you were young and pretty, he would’ve tried to hit on you [laughs]. That was Mikey. He was crazy about girls. He was a nice-looking kid, and he knew it.”

Resto raised Cancel from the time he was 6 months old, she said.

“His mother was in an abusive relationship, so I wanted to take him out of that environment,” Resto said. “I raised him all his life, the little short life he had.”

Since Cancel’s death, Resto said she’s been inundated with condolence calls from teachers, principals, baseball coaches, tutors and friends.

“Everybody knew Mikey,” Resto said. “Mikey was a very popular kid.”

She said the teen loved “parties, girls and school” — but spent as much time as he could with Katie Marie Cancel, his 2-year-old daughter.

“They were like two little kids together,” Resto said. The pair would draw pictures, play ball, spend time in local parks or just watch TV."

“His daughter’s never going to see her father again,” Resto said, before trailing off.

“We only had two more months here,” she said. “I wanted him out of this city. … Chicago is about territory. You have to live in certain spots. You can’t wear hats. You can’t wear certain colors …”

Resto said she still will move to Florida as planned. Carlos Cancel, who is “messed up” after witnessing his brother’s murder, will accompany her.

“What can I say to [the people who did this]? They’re not going to give themselves up. It’s cool to them to go around doing stuff like this. … I hope their guilt rots at them.”