STREETERVILLE — Hours before Chicago street performer Tom Loconti committed suicide, he posted a cryptic Facebook status that alarmed his friends.
After seeing the post, friends began calling each other and some posted on Facebook looking for the 32-year-old man.
"My friend called me [Wednesday night] asking if I knew what was going on with Tom," said Antonette Carpio, a friend of Loconti. "I didn't sleep much after that. I was hoping [he] was just being his usual intense self."
Carpio, 32, of Lincoln Square said Loconti was going through personal issues before his suicide. He did not have a cell phone, so Carpio messaged him Wednesday night on Facebook begging for him to talk to her, but he never responded.
"I think I saw the signs, but couldn’t differentiate if it was him just being him or him crying for help," Carpio said. "It was so hard to tell."
Police were called to the 600 block of East Grand Avenue about 3:45 a.m. Thursday and found Loconti unresponsive, officials said, adding that he jumped from a parking garage.
Loconti, 32, of the 3200 block of West Fulton Boulevard, was pronounced dead on the scene at 4:45 a.m., according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office. A Thursday autopsy ruled his death a suicide.
When Carpio heard about his death, she was shocked and couldn't stop crying. She tried going to the store to clear her mind, but found herself in tears in the middle of the store.
"Every other thought was about how I could’ve probably stopped him," Carpio said. "I don’t think anyone could get over the fact that he took his own life, especially after sharing how he felt about a couple of his friends taking their own lives."
Friends and family of the beloved street performer took to social media Thursday to mourn his death. Friends said the dancer would often throw competitions dedicated to charities and non-profit organizations.
"Tom was a street performer, a great dancer and a great mentor to dancers," Loconti's father, Thomas Dennis, said Thursday, adding that his son also served in the Air Force. "My head's spinning. There's a lot of rumors and conjecture about what happened."
As a street performer, he used the name "Plainwhite Tom" professionally, performing on Michigan Avenue and at neighborhood festivals, and as a carnival performer at Riot Fest in September.
Carpio first met Loconti at the Green Dolphin Street, a dance club at 2200 North Ashland Avenue that recently reopened as Dolphin. At the time, Carpio was finding her love for dancing while Loconti was already an established dancer. The two instantly became friends as Loconti inspired and encouraged her on her journey, Carpio said.
"As I grew more and more involved in dance, he would always encourage me, give me compliments and tell me how proud he was of me," Carpio said. "I never had anyone constantly give me recognition and love. [It was] as if I was his little sister that he helped raise."
Loconti didn't believe in texting. Instead, he preferred talking on the phone or meeting for coffee. All his friends knew that, and that's why he had so many friends who loved him, Carpio said.
"He had a way of being intimate and making his feelings personal and showed his affections whenever he could," Carpio said.
As news of his death spread Thursday afternoon, hundreds mourned him on Facebook and Twitter.
"You were an uncommonly talented and kind person, and the world is a little less bright without you," one Facebook friend wrote.
In an August 2012 profile in the Reader, Loconti described himself as "an extremely extroverted person" and said he had been "street dancing" for 15 years.
"I started out as a kid taking tap, jazz and ballet. I got away from it because I didn't like the way kids treated me in school. Then I found street dance, and it gave me the voice I was looking for," he said in the Reader piece.
Loconti added, "Death has never been one of those things I worry about. When I'm called, I'm called."