CHICAGO — Ebony Ambrose’s last chat with her son, Kevin, was about blenders.
“I keep burning mine out,” she said. “We make a lot of smoothies here.”
On Tuesday night, Ambrose told her son that she wished someone would just give her one of those pricy Vitamix blenders — the ones they use at smoothie shops that she could never afford.
Instead, she had decided to break down and buy a blender on sale at Walgreens for $17.99 — even though she’d certainly burn up that one, too.
“He works at Target and was telling me, ‘Don’t buy it,'” Ambrose said. “I asked him why and he said he couldn’t tell me.”
‘Kevin was shot’
Later Tuesday night, Kevin Ambrose, a 19-year-old Columbia College student, had a friend over for a visit — and another buddy was on his way.
Kevin planned to meet Michael Dye at the 47th Street Green Line station so he wouldn’t have to walk to the house alone through the dark, unfamiliar neighborhood plagued by drugs and violence.
Kevin's mom was tired so she went to bed early — sometime before 10 o’clock — and fell asleep fast.
It was a short sleep. Just after 11 p.m. the sound of someone knocking on the bedroom door woke her up.
“It’s his friend telling me, ‘You have to come on ‘cause Kevin was shot,’” she said. “And I step out of my bedroom and there’s plenty of police officers in my living room … officers that I recognize from CAPS meetings, seeing them in the neighborhood … and they were saying, ‘You need to hurry up because it doesn’t look good.’”
Kevin had gone to pick up Dye at the train station. That’s where Jerome Brown — a felon on parole for aggravated robbery after serving a fraction of an eight-year sentence — allegedly fired shots that struck Kevin as the teenager ran for his life, for as long as he could, until he collapsed in the alley under the "L" tracks.
Paramedics rushed Kevin to Stroger Hospital — his mother followed in a car close behind.
While doctors tended to her son, Ambrose sat in the waiting room. Another family was there, too. “They were talking so much, it was irritating the life out of me,” she said. “I had to go outside to get air.”
When Ambrose came back inside she spotted a doctor alone in the waiting room.
“I knew right then and there,” she said. “They don’t empty a waiting room to tell you that your kid is OK. They empty a waiting room to tell you your kid has passed.”
“I did my job”
Ebony Ambrose was proud of her son.
He was a dancer, an amateur music producer and a hard worker. He was studying to be a theater light and sound technician, but recently told his mother that he wanted to change his major to criminal justice.
Kevin wasn’t perfect — certainly not a saint, his mother said. He was a normal teenager.
And she’s grateful that local reporters shared the story of Kevin’s life, because too often when a young black kid gets shot their parents “have to prove your kid is not in a gang."
“It would have killed me to see my son’s story … just a blurb about a kid getting shot and gang-related at the end of the paragraph,” she said. “I know that’s not who he was.”
She raised a respectful, responsible young man — “not a shooter.”
“My kid didn’t get that way by accident. He got to be that way because I was an active parent,” she said. “I did my job.”
“I’m gonna say this”
On Tuesday, just before Kevin was shot, a man walking with his girlfriend spotted a suspicious car circling the 47th Street "L" station and crossed the street to avoid trouble.
He saw the shooter get out of that car, pull a pistol from the trunk, start to chase Kevin and riddle the college kid’s back with bullets.
The man ran, fleeing for his life.
In the frenzy he dropped his phone. He didn’t want the cops to find it and think he was the shooter, so he returned to the scene.
He told investigators what he saw and described the shooter’s car.
“A car like that?” an officer asked.
“That is them,” the man told police.
Police captured Brown, whom the witness identified as the shooter. The witness also agreed to testify in court.
Even before Brown was charged with Kevin’s slaying, the witness visited the boy’s grieving mother to tell her what he saw. Ambrose was on the sidewalk talking with friends who came to offer their condolences.
“When he came down here and spoke I was very happy because you just don’t get that nowadays,” Ambrose said.
The witness told Ambrose that he spoke up for Kevin because it was the right thing to do.
“He made it plain in front of everybody on the block. ‘I don’t care. I’m gonna say this. This is what happened.’ And I appreciate that very much,” Ambrose said. “I know it had to be very hard for him. His face may be out there, which may endanger his life in some sort of way, and I hope to God nothing happens to him. That’s a very brave thing he did.”
One last look
Hate is not a word that Kevin's mom uses very often.
She makes an exception for the man charged with killing her son.
“I’d like to be one of those people that talks about forgiveness and all,” she said. “But this piece of s--- can rot in hell. Point blank. Period.”
On Friday, for a moment, she set all that aside.
She refused to let all that anger and hate overpower her love for Kevin.
So she didn't go to court to watch as Brown stood before a judge to be arraigned for Kevin’s murder.
Instead, Ambrose and her husband, Chris O’Neal, went to the county morgue to collect her son’s things and identify his body on a video linkup. A last look before his body is cremated.
“It was really hard to look at his face on the screen today and go through all that,” she said.
She collected herself and headed to City Target in the Loop where Kevin worked part-time.
“I got to meet some of Kevin’s co-workers and to help comfort them,” she said. “They’re really going through this, too.”
Why did he beg her not to buy it?
Being there with them rekindled memories of her last moments with Kevin, and the cheap Walgreens blender they talked about — and how he finally admitted why he begged her not to buy it.
“He said, 'I’m buying you a blender for Mother’s Day,’” Ambrose said. “And I'm like, ‘Oh crap, Kevin.' That was our absolute last conversation, talking about that damn blender.”
And every time she thinks about that, love wins.