NEAR WEST SIDE — A decorated Navy veteran was shot dead at a Fourth of July weekend family gathering Saturday — just hours before his daughter, Samiyah, took her first steps.
“She took her first three steps that night, and he wasn’t even there to see her walk,” Terrell Kennedy, 31, said of his deceased brother-in-law, Jermia Millsap. “He ain’t ever going to see her do nothing again.”
On Friday night, Millsap, 25, was celebrating the long weekend with relatives outside his home in the 1000 block of West Maxwell Street. As their kids slept inside, adults chatted and drank well past midnight.
About 3 a.m., a group of men approached Millsap's family and opened fire, police said.
“They put a gun to my sister’s head, and she begged for her life. ‘Please don’t kill me, please don’t kill me,’” Kennedy said. “Then they chased my other brother down. Ran him down like a dog. Shot him once, then shot him again.”
Some assumed they were being robbed and tried to empty their pockets, Kennedy said.
“They didn’t want money. They wanted lives,” he said. “And that’s exactly what they took — lives.”
Millsap was fatally shot in his abdomen and pronounced dead at Stroger Hospital at 7:31 a.m. Saturday.
One of his brothers-in-law, Robert Williams, was hit in his arm and torso. Williams, 40, underwent several surgeries and is still in the hospital in serious condition, family said Monday.
“I just don’t get it because we didn’t have any weapons,” Kennedy said. “We don’t bother anybody. ... We're here for our family and kids."
According to neighbors, Maxwell Street serves as a dividing line for rival gangs. Gang graffiti is sprayed across several buildings, and one neighbor, who didn't want to be named, said Millsap’s death was the result of gang members “beefing.”
"He just got shot because of the area," the neighbor said.
“You’ve got a police station right here. You’ve got another police station over there. It’s open season. I don’t think they care,” said Terrence Bell, 40, a longtime family friend. "It's senseless."
On Monday morning, several relatives and friends paid their respects near a makeshift memorial. Hand-written notes hung above bottles of Pinnacle Vodka (Millsap’s favorite). An American flag perched above a poster of naval photos.
Millsap served in the U.S. Navy from January 2008 to February 2012, said Katie Suich, a Navy spokeswoman. As a boatswain’s mate seaman, Millsap earned several awards and decorations, including a pistol marksmanship ribbon.
Millsap was quiet and well mannered, his friends said — “the nicest guy.” He loved the Chicago Bears, mocked the Dallas Cowboys and was always willing to help a pal.
“He’s one guy, I know, will be truly missed in this community around here,” said Jimmie Dukes, 49, a longtime family friend.
Millsap and his wife, Tara Millsap, who was too distraught to talk Monday, had been planning a birthday party for their baby daughter, who turns 1 next week. The couple also have three sons, 7, 6 and 4 years old.
“Now my sister’s got to raise all her kids [alone]," Kennedy said. “And they constantly ask her: Where’s their daddy at? Where's their daddy? And we have to tell them he’s never coming back. They want to know why the bad man killed their daddy … and we can’t even explain to them why it happened.
“We got caught up in the middle of a gang war, and we didn’t have nothing to do with it.”