WEST RIDGE — During a chat on Dec. 1, 20-year-old Mensa Kifle told his dad he'd be taking a friend in a wheelchair to the Social Security office the next day.
Gilia Barih didn't think much of it. His oldest son had always liked helping people.
The next day, Kifle's "mom saw him at 9 o'clock eating his breakfast," Barih said. "That was the last time she saw him."
Kifle was gunned down outside Edgewater's Lickity Split custard shop, 6056 N. Broadway, less than two hours later.
Police said Kifle and his friend were standing near the intersection of North Broadway and West Glenlake Avenue when a light-colored van pulled up around 10:30 a.m. A gunman hopped out and opened fire — striking both men.
Kifle was rushed to Saint Francis Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 11:27 a.m. on Dec. 2.
His friend, 24, was taken to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center with non-fatal injuries.
Cops said Kifle's friend, whose name was not released, is a documented gang member who was possibly using the wheelchair after being injured in another shooting.
Police believe the shooting that killed Kifle could've been gang-related, but no one was in custody as of Tuesday.
Kifle was "a loving guy, and he loved helping people," Barih said. "He's a very outgoing and approachable person, but sometimes he could be approached by the negative influence. He could be influenced."
Barih — who along with his wife moved to the U.S. in the 1990s seeking refuge from political strife in their native Eritrea — said he sometimes worried whether his son was hanging out with the wrong crowd.
Kifle was raised as a born-again Christian, his dad said, and loved working with his church's youth group and summer camp.
"If I would tell him to stay away from troublemakers, he'd say, 'Well, that's what you think. But they are nice people. ... God didn't come to earth to save angels. He came to save sinners,'" Barih said, as he shook his head and laughed at his son's retort.
Barih said Kifle was charming. The 20-year-old — whose first name, Mensa, comes from his family's ancestral tribe in the Eritrean lowlands — was close to his cousins and four siblings. He liked relaxing at home or playing basketball.
After graduating from high school in 2012, Kifle attended Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville for one year, his dad said.
Kifle opted not to return to college this fall. Instead, he wanted to attend a local community college and work until he knew what career he wanted to pursue, Barih said.
According to relatives, Kifle was in the running for a job sterilizing equipment at one of the NorthShore hospitals.
In the week since his son was killed, Barih — who helps refugees as a case manager with Heartland Alliance — said he's received an outpouring of calls from well-wishers across the globe.
Members of Chicago's Eritrean community have been especially supportive, he said, and a fundraiser to cover Kifle's funeral costs has already garnered more than $12,000.
Barih said he's turned to his faith and is optimistic something good will come from his ordeal. He said he forgives whoever killed his son.
"I don't think people kill purposefully unless there is something [wrong in their lives] making them do it," Barih said. "This kid who did this — he didn't have a support system. He was not raised the right way."
Barih said he hopes the perpetrators are caught so "they're off the streets, getting some counseling" and can't continue killing.
"Whether [my son's case] is solved or not solved, it's not going to bring him back," Barih said.