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Man Gunned Down in West Pullman 'Never Sought Trouble'

By DNAinfo Staff on April 25, 2013 12:20pm  | Updated on April 25, 2013 4:46pm

WEST PULLMAN — Dane Whitfield's family and friends all referred to him the same way: He was well-mannered and well-liked.

Whitfield was the kind of person who would help elderly people on their way to church or in the grocery store.

He's also the type of person who would give his fiancee's $50 umbrella to a woman stranded outside during last week's torrential downpour.

Whitfield was shot dead Wednesday evening while driving in the 11800 block of South Harvard Avenue.

He was shot about 5:30 p.m., police said, his Kia Optima hitting a parked Buick LaCrosse before careering across 119th Street and hitting a utility pole.The car finally came to rest after crashing through a chain-link fence and hitting a house, police said.

Police said they had no information on why he was shot.

"There's a lot of shootings in this neighborhood, especially in the summer," said Courteney Dixon, who lives in one of just a few houses on the block that isn't boarded up. "The kids can't even play out here because of it. It's not even gangs who are doing it. It's just chaos."

Whitfield was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn with a gunshot wound in the back. He was pronounced dead at 6:55 p.m., according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office.

Family said it's likely he was driving home.

The hours leading up to the crash had been like any other day for Whitfield.

He dropped off fiancee Shalon McNeal, 28, at her job at a Jewel-Osco in Chatham about 4 p.m. using the car the couple had bought just weeks before.

"After he dropped me off, I called and joked with his grandmother that he didn't love me," McNeal said of her on-and-off boyfriend of 12 years.

He then drove to Maad Cuts, which he visited every two to three days for a beard trim and to talk with his longtime friend and barber Bayard McCullough.

"He was respectful. He never sought trouble," McCullough said. "He was always respectful."

The two chatted about going to a club on the North Side Wednesday night, but minutes after Whitfield left, McCullough got a call saying there was a shooting and that Whitfield was in a wreck.

McCullough said Whitfield was skilled on the basketball court. And even at age 31, Whitfield still dreamed of making it big as a basketball player.

"Every night he watches basketball and every single time he says, 'That's going to be me,' " McNeal said.

A Fenger High School graduate, Whitfield worked for a cleaning service and as a youth counselor at West Pullman Park, where he played basketball every day, according to family.

Whitfield's grandmother Fannie Ford, 78, said Whitfield was a respectful man who never was involved in gang life and loved his family.

Whitfield, she said, had tattoos on his arms dedicated to his family. Two said "Rest in Peace" in honor of his father, who died when Whitfield was 16, and his sister Atia, who died of leukemia as a toddler before Whitfield was born.

The other mentioned "The women I'd die for: Velma, Fannie, Georgia," referring to his grandmother and two aunts.

"He's such a good person," Ford said. "Why do good people die and bad people don't? We just don't know."