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'Caring' Grandson, Devoted Older Brother Fatally Shot in West Pullman

By Josh McGhee | December 5, 2013 6:55am
 Mason Smith, of the 11600 block of South Bishop Street was shot and killed Tuesday night on his block.
Mason Smith
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WEST PULLMAN — The last time Ella Smith saw her 22-year-old grandson alive, she asked him to go out and get her a pop and some burgers Tuesday night.

"OK, grandma, I'll get it for you,'" were Mason Smith's last words to his grandmother, she said.

Before he could return, Ella Smith, who suffers from health problems, had fallen asleep.

She was still sleeping round 9:30 p.m., when she was awoken by a loud "bam-bam-bam!" the furious knocking of a police officer at her door. The officer asked if she had heard the gunshots then asked if she lived alone. Smith explained to the officer that she lived her grandson, Mason.

"Where is Mason?" the officer asked Smith.

"I guess he's in the bed asleep," Smith told the cop before checking Mason's bedroom and realizing he wasn't home. Then the officer questioned Smith about her grandson's age and asked her to describe him. Shortly after the first officer, left more officers arrived to ask her more questions.

"I asked, 'Is he in trouble or is something wrong?" she said. "No one wanted to tell me anything so I figure it out for myself."

When Smith peered through her door and saw the yellow police tape hanging down her block, she knew what the police would not tell her.

"My grandson is dead," she realized, before heading down her block toward the crime scene as far as she could bare to walk.

"I went just beyond the street because I didn't want to see him laying there like that," she said.

Smith said she wasn't sure what Mason was doing out, but overheard he was walking a friend home when he was shot.

"He didn't really hang out. He stayed in the house and played video games with his little brother," Smith said. "But sometimes he would talk to the neighbors."

Officer Hector Alfaro, a police spokesman, said police responded to a call of shots fired in the 11600 block of South Bishop Street about 9:25 p.m. Tuesday and discovered Mason Smith fatally wounded in the street.

He was pronounced dead on the scene at 10:38 p.m. Tuesday, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office.

His mother, who refused to give her name, said she hadn't seen her son since Thanksgiving but assumed he was safe because she knew he was with his grandmother, even though the neighborhood has gone through some changes since they moved in 17 years ago.

"It was unbelievable. I couldn't believe that it had happened. Everybody knows everybody on the block. I never expected that at all," Smith's mother said. "It's been a really nice neighborhood to live in, but lately it's been terrible, more crime and more shootings."

Ella Smith said her grandson was a spirited person who loved watching sports and had a soft heart, especially when it came to his 4-year-old brother, Jovan. They said Mason would pick Jovan up from Whittier Elementary and walk with him to their grandmother's house after school.

Wednesday morning, two burgers and a pop still sat on Ella Smith's table — left there for her the night before by her grandson.

Ella Smith let out a sickly cough as she picked them up off the table to make room for her and her daughter to sort through old pictures of Mason. Jovan bounced restlessly in and out of rooms, seemingly oblivious to the tragic incident the night before.

"He understands bits and pieces," his mother said. "We've been up all night long. No one can sleep here. We're just taking it as it comes, that's all we can do."