ROSELAND — William "LB" Aikens' mother waited silently at first, later brimming with tears as she saw the body of her son, who lay dead along with another man across a vacant lot lined with police tape.
About 100 residents gathered as police investigated the double murder about 3:24 p.m. Wednesday in the 10500 block of South Lafayette Avenue, some sobbing while others tried to comprehend what had happened.
Irene Aikens and her family waited for confirmation that the body visible across the field was her 28-year-old son, whose 2-week-old daughter, McKenzie, waited for him at home.
"McKenzie was having bad dreams all day, waking up crying," Aikens' mother said between tears. "Her daddy called earlier today. He said he was coming home tonight."
Aikens' mother described him as a man who was "always there to make me laugh." The two would make coffee every morning and tend to the garden at their Austin home, she said.
Aikens had gone back to the South Side neighborhood where he had grown up Wednesday night to see his family. He was found dead, along with a 22-year-old man, behind a nearby Roseland home, authorities said. The second man was identified as Martellis Griffis, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office.
Thursday morning, police did not have details on the circumstances that led to the shooting. Authorities said Aikens and Griffis were affiliated with two gangs in the area, but didn't say what role, if any, their affiliations played in the shooting. A handgun was recovered near one of the men, police said.
Aikens was shot in the 10500 block of South Lafayette Avenue and then ran east across a vacant alley before collapsing a block over on South Perry Avenue, authorities said. Griffis was shot and fell in the 10500 block of South Lafayette Avenue, the same block where he lived.
Aikens flipped through photos of her son and granddaughter Wednesday night, asking in vain to "hold her son." One photo of Aikens was taken at Humboldt Park beach on the first day of school, she said. Another showed Aikens in a suit on Mother's Day when they went to a fashion show together.
"He put that on for me," she said.
Aikens acknowledged that her son had "done his dirt in the past" but said the avid White Sox fan "had a mother who loved him no matter what."
"That's what everyone is going to be thinking — 'he's a gang member,'" she said. "But he had plenty of people that loved him."
Aikens, said his mother, was looking forward to dressing his infant daughter up in her first White Sox shirt.
"He was a big kid at heart," she said, glancing at the photos on her phone.