AUSTIN — Jacquez Williams could usually be found hanging out with friends near the corner of North and Central avenues in the Austin neighborhood.
Friends said the 17-year-old boy was "all about making money." He was a good card player and loved to shoot dice with friends in the 5500 block of West North Avenue. He also sold loose cigarettes to bring in some extra cash.
"He never went anywhere else," one friend said.
And last weekend, the teen was killed on that same block.
Police said a gunman dressed in all black clothing approached Jacquez from behind and shot him in his head about 2 a.m. on Saturday. He was pronounced dead on the scene a half hour later, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's office.
Authorities said the teen had documented gang ties, and police were investigating if his slaying was gang-related.
But at a vigil for Jacquez on Thursday evening, family and friends denied he was ever part of gang.
"He wasn't in any gang," said one of Jacquez's sisters, who asked that she not be named. "He didn't have any tattoos. He didn't have any piercings."
Family members had heard different stories about what happened leading up to Jacquez's murder. He had gotten into an argument earlier in the day, but family said they were not sure if that had anything to do with the shooting.
On Thursday, a teddy bear and balloons marked the spot where the teen was killed, just outside the apartment where the Williams family had lived for more than four years. Neighbors and CeaseFire workers joined family for a vigil.
Jacquez, the second youngest of seven siblings, had moved with his family from Austin about five months ago but kept returning to the neighborhood, said Inez Williams, Jacquez's grandmother.
Williams described her grandson as a "very vibrant, energetic young man."
"He was trying to do the best he could. He had a lot of peer pressure," she said. "He was too trusting. He trusted everybody, but basically that's the type of person he was."
Jacquez had attended Foreman High School for his freshman year but had later dropped out, family said. He had recently enrolled in an alternative school, Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School, for his sophomore year. His grandmother said his favorite subject was biology.
Jacquez's father died in 2002 from cancer, and his mother had struggles with drugs, his sister said. The teen sought a place "to fit in," she said.
"He was just looking for attention and love," she said. "My grandmother gave him that, but it's nothing like a love of a mother and father. That's the thing that was missing in his life."
Family members expressed frustration that none of Jacquez's friends would come forward to give information to police about his murder.
"To me, he didn't have any friends," one sister said. "Because nobody knows anything but everybody was outside" when he was killed.
She said she was hesitant even telling people when the teen's funeral would be.
"I don't know who I'm talking to," she said. "I could be talking to his murderer, telling him where to come see his body."
Friends who gathered for Thursday night's vigil called Jacquez's death "senseless" but did not share details.
"Out here, you can die in the wink of an eye, right or wrong," said a friend who declined to give his name.
Inez Williams said it was the neighborhood that took her grandson's life.
"I believe if he was in a different environment, he would have made it, and I tried so many times to get them out of the hood to different places, but it's hard," she said. "It's really hard when you have no help."
Jacquez was one of four people killed over a weekend that saw 35 more people wounded by gunfire.