CHICAGO — "Call my mama."
Those were the last words of 15-year-old Cornelius German before he died after being shot in the back.
Cornelius, a Kenwood Academy High School freshman, was killed just blocks from President Barack Obama's home Monday night.
About 9:40 p.m., the 15-year-old was standing in the street in the 5000 block of South Evans Avenue when he was shot in his back, police said. He died on the scene.
Cornelius' mother, Timika Rutledge-German said she and her husband were less than a block away from their son when he was shot.
Rutledge-German said they were at East 50th Place and South Evans Avenue in their car waiting to pick up Cornelius, who was at a dice game with some older teens nearby and had called from a friend's phone for a ride home.
When Rutledge-German and her husband pulled up to the intersection, she called the friend's phone but nobody answered, she said. They waited five or 10 minutes before she sent a text saying Cornelius could walk home if he made them wait much longer, Cornelius' mom said.
Then she saw a man running away from the corner. Then the police cars showed up.
"I kept telling my husband, 'I don't feel right,'" Rutledge-German called. She soon got out of her car and asked a police officer what happened. She said he told her a boy had gotten shot in a nearby backyard.
"Everything in me, my whole soul, my whole being said, 'That's your baby,'" Rutledge-German said Tuesday morning.
She said she walked to the backyard and saw her son's body covered with a white sheet.
"I knew it was my baby because I saw his shoes, and I saw his jacket," she said, choking up. "And I know it was him 'cause I had just bought the shoes and the jacket."
Police did not have information early Tuesday morning about how or why Cornelius, of the 1000 block of East Hyde Park Boulevard, was shot. But Sgt. Alexander Stinites, a Chicago Police Department spokesman, said the teen had documented gang ties.
Sitting in her kitchen Tuesday morning, Rutledge-German said her youngest son's death was still not real to her, but she said he was not in a gang.
"There aren't too many people that aren't in no gang nowadays," she said. "Most of his friends, they may have been gangbanging, but he kicked it with everybody — the GDs, the Stones — so he wasn't no gangbanger, he just hung out, or associated with gang members."
Rutledge-German said her son was a freshman at Kenwood Academy, which the school's principal confirmed. She said he had just transferred to Kenwood from Milburn Alternative School because he did get into trouble from time to time at school.
"He had issues. I'm not going to say he wasn't a rambunctious child," she said.
But she also remembered Cornelius, nicknamed "Cornbread," as a comedian.
"When he'd walk in the room, he'd light it up because he was charming. He was charismatic," she said.
Cornelius' aunt, Kameisha Andrews, also remembered him for his sense of humor, calling him a "freaking comedian." She also called her nephew "a good child" who loved to rap.
"He was loving. He was cheerful," Andrews said at her home, just blocks from where the teen was gunned down. "He was smart as hell."
She smiled as she recalled the last time she saw her nephew, when "Cornbread" came by her home on Friday looking for snacks and ended up eating all her cookies.
"It's ridiculous that we're going through this," she said. "I'm holding up because I have to for my sister's sake, but on the inside, I'm hurting like hell."
Cornelius was the youngest of Rutledge-German's four children, and the only child of her husband, Ronald German.
Rutledge-German said after the shooting she spoke with a group of older teens at the scene who said they were with Cornelius when he was shot.
She said they told her Cornelius was leaving the dice game when someone walked up and shot him. They told her he yelled out "I'm hit! I'm hit!" before asking them to call his mother.
Rutledge said she doesn't know if police will find who killed her son, but she wants to know what happened.
She said she believes the "code of silence might kick in" for the young men who were with her son at the time. She said they told her they would find out what happened but couldn't talk at the scene, telling her "there's too many heads around here," meaning they could not be sure who was listening.
Tuesday morning, Rutledge-German said she was tired. She said she couldn't sleep after seeing her son's body on the ground.
She had tried though. When she got home, she said she laid in Cornelius' bed to be as close as she could to her son.
"So I could feel him," she said.