EAST GARFIELD PARK — Saturday seemed like a good day in East Garfield Park for Lamont Peterson.
For the first time in his life he stepped on the basketball court with his little brother, a budding player at Manley Career Academy.
But it only took four minutes for a good Saturday to turn into a tragic Sunday for Peterson when he discovered his 17-year-old brother, Brandon Peterson, shot in a vacant lot across from their home in the 3100 block of West Polk Street.
"I know I was supposed to do something. I should've been by his side," Lamont Peterson said Thursday afternoon staring at the lot where his brother was fatally shot.
Lamont Peterson constantly looked out for his brother, trying to keep him from the shootings and violence that plague the streets of Chicago, he said. When Brandon was a freshman Lamont convinced his mother to make him transfer to Manley Academy after he began hanging out with acquaintances from a bad crowd.
"They were just doing too much. He knew people from the West Side and South Side," Lamont Peterson said, adding that the different groups were known to clash and he didn't want his brother involved in the violence.
Manley is near the Peterson home, giving an added benefit: "There was no multiple buses or having to watch his back."
Brandon was smart and athletic, his mother, Lisa Peterson, said as she wore an orange shirt of his that had his nickname, "Bear," written across the chest.
He earned several several academic and athletic trophies, which were proudly displayed in the Peterson dining room. Several feet away stood eight large poster boards filled with signatures from family, friends and basketball teammates who've visited the house since the fatal shooting.
"He wanted to so something. He never wanted to be a drug dealer and he never sold drugs. He never shot nobody. Nothing like that," Lamont Peterson said.
Lamont would spend hours outside keeping an eye out for violence and, most importantly, keeping an eye on his brother, but Saturday he left his post on the corner of South Albany Avenue and West Polk Street. When a friend showed up with a car they hit the streets in search of women and some fun around the neighborhood.
Before leaving the block they rode past a group of about 30 people. Lamont didn't like the look of the group but when he scanned the crowd and didn't see his brother he left.
Minutes later and a few blocks away, he was told there was a shooting on his block, Lamont said.
"We need to see what happened," Lamont remembered telling his friend as he begged him to drive faster. By the time he reached the scene he was too late. Residents around the neighborhood told him Brandon was helping a young girl who had been struck during the fight when he was shot.
Around 12:04 a.m. Sunday, police found the teen shot in his chest and left leg. Brandon was walking with a group in the 3100 block of West Polk Street when someone opened fire, said Officer Ron Gaines, a police spokesman.
He was taken to Stroger Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 12:26 a.m., according to the Cook County Medical Examiner.
"I was just on that corner. I stay there all day and all night," Lamont said while wearing his brother's black mesh Converse jersey.
"I should have told him to go in the house or, 'C'mon bro, let's see what's happening over here,'" he said, struggling to make sense of the situation. "I could've either saved my little brother or been shot with him."
Brandon loved to eat, his family said, adding he could be found enjoying his favorite snack, Twix and a can of watermelon-flavored Arizona beverage. In fact, his mother's fondest memory was from Saturday morning when he offered his mother a bite of his burrito then poked fun of her for how large of a bite she took. Lamont took an equal bite of the same burrito and received an equal scolding from the 17-year-old.
Brandon was silly but was also a tough kid, a necessary trait for living in the neighborhood, his family said. That toughness may have lead to his shooting, his brother speculated.
"My little brother was a fighter but he would fight for the right reason," Lamont said admitting his brother got into a fight earlier that day but wasn't involved in the scuffle right before he was shot.
Lamont said after his brother's earlier fight he experienced one of the proudest moments of his life when several boys his brother knew appeared with BB guns and Brandon told them "to do the right thing" and put the guns away. He would later discover along with the toy guns one of the boys had a real gun, a discovery that had a lot more meaning Thursday then it did before the shooting.
"That's the reason my little brother is gone, right now," Lamont said choking up from his front porch. Across the street was a collection of candles, a bottle of Brandon's favorite watermelon Arizona beverage and a Winnie the Pooh bear serving as a memorial for Brandon.
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