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Teenager Fighting for His Life a Week After Uptown Shooting

By Adeshina Emmanuel | September 7, 2013 3:15pm
 A prayer vigil was held in Uptown Friday night for Isaiah Johnson.
Prayer vigil for Isaiah Johnson
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UPTOWN — A 14-year-old boy shot in the head in late August is struggling to stay alive, community activists said Friday during a vigil for the teen known to friends as Lil Polo.

The teen, identified by CeaseFire workers as Isaiah Johnson, was shot twice in the head Aug. 31 in what police called a gang-related incident at the intersection of West Wilson Avenue and North Broadway.

On Friday night, an anti-violence rally and prayer vigil was held at the site of the shooting. The teen has friends who belong in a gang, but he was not a member, CeaseFire workers said.

"To me, it doesn't matter," said Ald. James Cappleman (46th) at the rally. "What I care about is that someone was shot in the head."

He is "still on life support" at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center after the shooting left him in critical condition, said Anthony Doss, a community organizer with Organizing Neighborhoods for Equality: Northside. Doss manages Uptown's CeaseFire anti-violence program.

Attempts to reach Johnson's mother were unsuccessful. But Doss said he visited Johnson's mother Thursday night, describing her as "distraught."

The shooting, according to witness accounts, started as a verbal altercation between rival gang members from neighboring territories.

The fight turned physical — and then escalated to gunplay. 

Doss said Johnson is not a gang member. But he did hang out with gang members — so to the gunman, he was "guilty by association," Doss said.

The rally was organized by ONE and CeaseFire to speak out against gang violence that has hit the neighborhood this summer despite a beefed up police presence. At least 17 people have been shot in Uptown since June.

The vigil for Johnson came a little more than two weeks after community members gathered to pray for 21-year-old Darius Oliver. Oliver, shot in an Aug. 19 gang-related shooting that wounded four others, was on life support for less than a week before dying.

The Aug. 19 shooting happened at Wilson and Sheridan, just a few blocks east of where Johnson was shot on Aug. 31. Police said both incidents are related, and that they are "building a case," against suspects.

CAPS beat 1913 facilitator Paul Bracht, also an Uptown resident, said the shootings were a "continuation of a gang conflict that has been going on for generations" in Uptown.

Three major street gangs operate within blocks of Wilson and Broadway, a part of the neighborhood Cappleman has called the "epicenter" of crime in Uptown.