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'Sweetheart' from Bridgeport Dies Month After Little Village Shooting

By Quinn Ford | July 9, 2014 5:27am
 Debra Escobedo, 49, of Bridgeport, died Monday after she was shot June 1 in Little Village.
Debra Escobedo
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BRIDGEPORT — Debra Escobedo had stopped to talk to some friends as she left a Little Village bar last month when a gunman — possibly as young as 12 or 14 — walked up to the group and began shooting.

About 2:50 a.m. on June 1, the 49-year-old was standing with a group of people in the 2700 block of West 24th Street when a gunman approached on foot and opened fire, police said.

Escobedo was the only one hit. The bullet struck her pancreas, liver and kidney before finally leaving her body, family said.

She was rushed in critical condition to Mount Sinai Hospital's intensive care unit.

After a month-long struggle, she died at the hospital on Monday, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's office.

 Debra Escobedo (l.) pictured with younger sister Lucy Fernandez. Both sisters were killed in separate Chicago shootings, family said.
Debra Escobedo (l.) pictured with younger sister Lucy Fernandez. Both sisters were killed in separate Chicago shootings, family said.
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Escobedo's brother, Nelson Massallo, said his sister was leaving Lorraine's Lounge when the gunman began shooting. He said detectives were able to pull video from a bar camera and said the shooter was young, maybe between the ages of 12 and 14 years old.

On Tuesday, a police spokeswoman said the investigation remains ongoing, and no one has been charged in the shooting.

Massallo and family members think the shooting may have been some sort of gang initiation because the shooter appeared to just fire into a crowd.

"I don't think the kid even knew what he was doing," Massallo said of the person who took his sister's life. "He was probably forced into doing something stupid to join a gang."

Police said Escobedo had no gang affiliation but could not immediately provide details about whether the shooting was gang-related.

Escobedo, who lived in the 3100 block of South Green Street, had lived with her family in Little Village before moving to Bridgeport more than 20 years ago, but she still liked to visit friends in the neighborhood, which family called her "second home."

Little Village is one of many neighborhoods in the city to struggle with violence. Escobedo is at least the seventh homicide in the neighborhood so far this year. In 2013, there were at least nine homicides in Little Village, according to DNAinfo Chicago data.

Tuesday afternoon, Escobedo's mother and four surviving siblings sat inside their Bridgeport home remembering the 49-year-old. The oldest of six kids, Escobedo did not have any children of her own but took care of her relatives. She was strong-willed, Massallo said, and dependable.

"She was the kind of person that it's got to be her way ... but she was a sweetheart," he said. "If you needed something done, she'd do it. ... I'm diabetic, and she'd make sure I'm always eating and would cook for me."

Escobedo had a talent for cooking. She worked at a number of restaurants as a chef or line cook, most recently at Ferro's Italian Beef on West 31st Street. She could make anything, said her mother Sonia Mujica.

"The best thing that she loved was the kitchen," she said. "Cooking, that's her life."

Everyone knew his sister's favorite dish.

"Debbie was chicken, chicken, chicken, chicken," Massallo said. "Every night, she probably thought about chicken when she was sleeping."

When she wasn't cooking, Escobedo liked to have fun, Mujica said. She loved to dance, something she got from her mother, said another brother, Javier Massallo.

Family said until this past week, Escobedo appeared to be recovering from the shooting. She had been communicating and trying to talk. On July 3, she managed to wave goodbye to her mother and niece as they left the hospital. 

The family is no stranger to gun violence. Escobedo's youngest sister, Luz Fernandez, was killed in 1990 in Back of the Yards when she and her daughter were caught in crossfire, family members said. Fernandez, then 18, shielded her infant daughter from fyling bullets and was struck in her head. Since then, Escobedo has been especially close with her sister's daughter, Cindy Chavez.

Like so many searching for answers about how to stop Chicago's violence, Chavez said she thinks more police would help, but also said better parenting is needed, especially to prevent shootings like the one that claimed Escobedo.

"The parents need to step up and be parents and show their kids that's not the life they should have," Chavez said.

For Escobedo's mother, the solution is getting guns off city streets.

"I hate guns," Mujica said. "There's too many guns."

Family members are urging anyone with information about the shooting to call police.

Escobedo did not have life insurance and family members are currently raising money for funeral costs. Anyone wishing to donate can do so here.

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