BELMONT GARDENS — The Chicago running community is hosting a fundraiser next week for one of its own after a shooting earlier this week on the Northwest Side left a 16-year-old boy dead and the boy's father critically injured.
On Monday afternoon, Uriel Lara and his son, Adam Lara, were shot repeatedly as they left a grocery store in the Belmont Gardens neighborhood.
Both were taken to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, where Adam later died, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's office. Uriel Lara is recovering from his wounds.
Uriel Lara is considered by many to be a leader in the city's running community. The 49-year-old, a machinist, is a part of two competitive teams and also privately serves as a volunteer coach for runners of all levels, friends say.
Lara and his son were eating lunch Monday afternoon with one of those runners, 18-year-old Danny Ayala, at the grocery store owned by Ayala's father just before the shooting happened. After lunch, Ayala said goodbye to the father and son and went back to work at the store.
"Maybe less than five minutes later, they were screaming 'Get over here! Get over here! Your friend got shot!'" Ayala said.
Ayala went across the street to where Lara was trying to get out of his black sedan. The 49-year-old had been shot three times in the back. Adam had been shot in the head. Ayala recalled telling his coach to stay strong, that he would make it through the shooting.
"And he just laid back and just shook his head," Ayala said. "And I looked at Adam, and he just looked really bad."
Police said about 3:30 p.m. Monday, two gunmen got into an argument with the father and son before shooting them inside their car in the 2800 block of North Kenneth Avenue.
Video taken from the grocery store showed two men waiting in the parking lot as Lara and his son walked to their car. The two men got into an argument with Adam, who tried to approach them but was stopped by his father, Ayala said. The two then drove off before pulling over about a block away. The two gunmen followed and continued to argue before pulling out a gun and opening fire.
Police said the shooting was possibly gang-related, but a police source said the 16-year-old did not appear to be a gang member, according to police records.
The Lara family could not be reached for comment on Wednesday, but Ayala said he knew Adam as a good person.
"He was a really chill guy," Ayala said. "Every time I would talk to him, he seemed so kind."
On Monday night, Heather Williams, another pupil of Lara's, was expecting Lara at a 5k race in Lakeview. Lara, who had helped Williams achieve a personal record time in the same race last year, had promised to show up again to coach her.
But Lara never arrived. The next morning, Williams received a text message from Lara telling her he did not make it because of the shooting.
Williams, who is on a competitive team with Lara through the Universal Sole Running Store, spread the word of what happened, and the store scheduled a fundraiser run for 6:30 p.m. Monday at 3052 N. Lincoln Ave. The suggested entry fee is $20, and donations are also being accepted online.
The run will help raise money for the family's medical bills and funeral costs. Williams said Lara does not have health insurance and was told by family members that Adam's funeral will cost more than $8,000.
An online fundraising campaign was also started, and, as of Wednesday evening, had raised about $2,500 for the family.
Williams said the fun run and online campaign are the best ways the running community could think to help Lara.
"We're just hoping to raise as much money as possible to assist the family with all the costs," she said. "We know Uriel loves running, so we thought what better way to celebrate the life of Adam as well as bring attention to the situation and help out.
"Hopefully this will help keep Adam's memory alive, so he doesn't become just another statistic," Williams said.
Megan Sullivan, the training program manager at the Chicago Area Runners Association, said Lara can be found leading the pack at most local races but also stays to cheer on other runners at the finish line. To many, Lara is a mentor, she said.
"I would call him a leader in the running community," Sullivan said. "He helps a lot of younger runners achieve their goals. He's a very visible representative of the Chicago running community, and you will always see him out there cheering, waving, supporting other runners."
One of the many people Lara has helped is Ayala, who graduated from Lake View High School this year and plans to run at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign this fall.
Like Williams, Ayala visited Lara in the hospital this week. He said Lara is doing "really well" physically but is trying to accept the loss of his son.
To Ayala, Lara is more than a coach. He's a friend and someone to look up to, Ayala said.
"He's almost 50, and he's still running 100 miles a week ... and he'll still kick my butt in a 5k," Ayala said. "He's been training me and other people for a lot of years, and he's never asked for a penny out of me."
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