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Mother of 2014's First Murder Victim: 'They Tore the Family Up'

By Quinn Ford | January 5, 2014 10:13am
 Ronald Sawyer, 30, was the first homicide victim of 2014. Sawyer was killed Friday in Roseland.
Ronald Sawyer
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ROSELAND — Telisa Clark says the beginning of the new year is usually a time when her family comes together and celebrates.

But this year is different. Clark and her family are mourning.

Clark's son, Ronald Sawyer, was the city's first homicide of 2014.

Sawyer was killed Friday in the city's Roseland neighborhood. The 30-year-old was near the corner of South Princeton Avenue and West 114th Street at 1:15 p.m. when a gunman approached and shot him repeatedly, police said.

Sawyer was shot in his face, back, hand and buttocks. He was rushed in critical condition to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn where he was pronounced dead at 4:08 p.m., according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office.

On Saturday evening, Clark said she hadn't slept since the doctors let her see her son one last time in the hospital.

Sawyer was the oldest of her four children, and Clark said she and her family still are struggling to grasp that he is really gone. He was the cornerstone of the family, Clark said.

"He was the glue," she said. "Whoever did this, they tore the family up."

Sawyer grew up in Roseland and had moved out of the neighborhood years ago, said his sister, Laquila Sawyer. But he still had family in the neighborhood. His grandmother lived just blocks from where he was gunned down.

On Friday, Sawyer had gone to Roseland to take his car to a neighborhood mechanic before he was shot. Laquila Sawyer said her family has no idea why anyone would want to shoot her older brother.

"We're still waiting for answers," she said. "He didn't have enemies. To be shot that many times, it's just ... I don't know."

Chicago saw homicides drop in 2013; 88 fewer people were killed than in 2012, according to the Chicago Police Department. Last year had the lowest murder rate since 1966.

But in Roseland, the violence has been steady. There were 15 murders in the neighborhood in 2013 and 13 murders the year before, according to DNAinfo Chicago data.

Like many, Telisa Clark said she thinks shootings like the one that took her son are "senseless."

"The violence, it needs to stop," she said.

Sawyer, or "Lil' Ronnie" as his family called him, loved cars. He liked taking engines apart and putting them back together. He liked racing. Over the last year, Sawyer had been working to open a car dealership with his uncle in Roseland, his sister said. It was his dream.

Sawyer loved kids. He did not have any biological children of his own but was the stepfather of three, his mother said. During the days, he helped his mother with her day care business.

And the work schedule fit him; he was an earlier riser, his sister said.

Sawyer chipped in money to send his younger sister, Laquila, to college. Sawyer, who went to Fenger High School, had plans to enroll at Chicago State University, family said.

Sitting in the living room of her Ashburn home, Telisa Clark smiled as she remembered how her son would watch soap operas every day without fail.

She said Sawyer loved to cook, and the two would have "cook-offs" to see who could make certain dishes better. Clark said she would always win, except when it came to barbecue. Her son was the master of the grill, she said.

Sawyer was a jokester, Clark said, but when it came to family, he was serious. He was a good older brother who looked out for his siblings, always making sure they did their homework, Laquila Sawyer said.

Telisa Clark said she wants to see her Sawyer's killer caught, although she knows "It won't bring my son back."

Talking about her son being gone, Clark could not hold back the tears.

"Ronnie wasn't an angel, 'cause none of us are, but what did he do so wrong that they took his life?" Clark asked. "That's a cold-hearted act, and they didn't think about the repercussions behind it — his family."