MCKINLEY PARK — The youngest of four siblings, Antonio Mendez had a new girlfriend and was starting to learn Spanish and appreciate salsa music.
The 24-year-old had just moved out of the family's apartment into his own place. It didn't matter that the new apartment was in the same red brick building as his family. He was looking ahead to the future.
"He still wanted to be close to his mom," said Antonio's mother, Rosa Mendez.
But Mendez's life was cut short when he was struck by a car and killed early Saturday morning in the 1800 block of West 33rd Place, police said. Authorities have ruled his death a homicide.
Mendez, who police said was a documented gang member, had been a passenger in a Chevrolet Cavalier that was involved in an argument with the driver of a white SUV. The Cavalier pulled over, and Mendez, the driver and another passenger got out of the car and approached the SUV.
That's when the SUV's driver headed toward the group, hit Mendez and then sped away, police said. He was taken to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead.
"Before I could get there," said Rosa Mendez, a cashier at a local big box store.
Now, as the family makes funeral arrangement, the grieving mother is searching for answers.
She's hoping the other people in the car with Antonio will talk to her and explain exactly what led to his death.
"I'd like them to talk to me so I can have some closure," she said.
Standing on the porch at her McKinley Park apartment building, Mendez and her sister held up a display board featuring pictures of Antonio.
They included a yellowing newspaper article highlighting his perfect attendance at Everett Elementary School and photos of the smiling young man with White Sox players and Blackhawks players, a perk of his former job in guest services at U.S. Cellular Field.
In one of the photos, he's tossing out the first pitch at a Sox game, an award reserved for employees of the month.
That's how Rosa wants the world to remember her son, as "someone who loved life and liked to be happy."
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