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Family of Slain 14-Year-Old Boy Had Moved Out of City to Escape Violence

By DNAinfo Staff on July 3, 2013 11:51am

 Damani Henard, 14, was shot to death while riding his bike in the 5000 block of West North Avenue in the early morning of July 3.
Damani Henard killed while riding bike
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AUSTIN — The 3-mile bike trip between his old neighborhood in West Humboldt Park and his new home in Oak Park was a daily event in the life of 14-year-old Damani Henard.

"This is an everyday route for him," said Zapria Robinson, 16, clutching crime scene tape where Damani was shot. "He doesn't have any enemies. I don't know why they killed my little brother."

Damani died early Wednesday morning after being shot while riding his bike in front of Banner Academy West High School in the 5000 block of West North Avenue.

The shooting occurred about 12:45 a.m., when Robinson said her brother was uncharacteristically riding his bike alone back home to Oak Park.

Damani was shot multiple times, including at least once in his neck, according to police.

The initial investigation doesn't connect Damani with gangs in the area or indicate if he was targeted specifically, police said.

He was pronounced dead at 3:10 a.m. at the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office.

The shooting occurred hours after 19-year-old Ashley Hardmon was killed a half-mile away.

Investigations into both shootings are ongoing, and it's unclear if they are connected, police said.

A straight-B student, Damani had just completed eighth grade at West Park Academy, 1425 N. Tripp Ave., and "was so ready to start high school" at suburban Oak Park-River Forest High School, his sister said. 

The family had just moved to Oak Park to escape the violence of Chicago's West Side, though most of Damani's friends were in the old neighborhood.

He would regularly make the ride to hang out with his friends, and after school ended those trips would end later in the night, Robinson said.

"He usually rode with friends" because of the violence in the area, Robinson said.

Residents who lived near the scene said they knew little of the morning attack and added that the area was notorious for violence and shootings.

Robinson described Damani as an outspoken, but respectful, boy with a talent for drawing.

"If he feels a certain way, he would let you know," Robinson said.

Damani wanted to be a newspaper cartoonist when he grew up.

Robinson's cousin Tanisha Stigger, 26, remembered Damani hitting up friends and relatives "for a dollar, wanting to buy chips or a drink or something."

Robinson last saw her brother alive early Tuesday evening, when she made him dinner before his daily trip to the old neighborhood.

The last thing she did was give him a dollar without regrets.

"That's the last dollar I had," Robinson said.