ROGERS PARK — Hundreds of neighbors — including clergy, residents, aldermen and police — gathered Wednesday night at the Devon Avenue corner where bystander Wil Lewis was gunned down just days earlier.
"I'm sorry that we're here because of the event that happened," said organizer John Warner, addressing the crowd. "But I'm very happy we're here to show that we haven't given up."
Lewis, 28, was shot Saturday in the 1300 block of West Devon Avenue as a suspected gang member opened fire at a rival. The shooter missed, instead striking Lewis, a freelance photographer who had recently moved from Wisconsin to Chicago with his wife of nearly two years.
The brazen attack, in an area of the neighborhood not typically affected by gun violence, shocked residents.
As many as 300 people gathered at the intersection of Devon and Glenwood avenues, then walked four blocks to North Sheridan Road and back.
"It's just tragic. It's really sad," said Renee Burdulis, who walked alongside her fiance, Dan Fetty. They're both 31 and, like Lewis and his wife, recently moved to the neighborhood.
"We wanted to come out to show our support and show that it's not OK to have this happen in our neighborhood," Burdulis said.
The Rev. Joseph Jackson, of St. Ignatius Church, said the "incredible sadness" of the death of Lewis also spurred "incredible strength."
"The hope comes from your presence — each and every one of you is a gift from God," he said. "No one alone can stand against violence, but all of us together can stand against it."
The Rev. Dominic Grassi, of nearby St. Gertrude's Church, called for solutions to the problem of Chicago gun violence, while also lamenting the death of the innocent.
"We lament the loss of a life of only 28 years," he said to the gathered crowd, which grew so large that police stopped traffic. "We lament the grief that is felt by his friends in Wisconsin and his new neighbors here. We lament the loss of the family that he and his wife Maria were ready to start. We lament the photographs that he will never have the chance to take.
"We lament the world in which our children are losing their innocence."
Ald. Joe Moore (49th), who happened to witness the Saturday shooting, praised the witnesses of the attack who helped police find and charge one of two suspects in the case.
Ald. Harry Osterman (48th), whose ward borders Devon Avenue, called for "unity, solidarity and remembrance of William Lewis."
"We're here to stand together to make sure that those who want to commit violence understand that we will not be deterred," he said. "This is our neighborhood for our children — for all of us."
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