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Far North Side Year in Review: What Had Locals Talking in 2014

By Benjamin Woodard | December 30, 2014 6:56am
 Memorial for Mutahir Rauf, slain Loyola student
Memorial for Mutahir Rauf, slain Loyola student
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DNAinfo/Benjamin Woodard

FAR NORTH SIDE — Rogers Park's and Edgewater's 2014 was marked with triumph and tragedy.

From the inspiring — like Senn High's Jessica Velez, prom king and football wide receiver — to the sad — like the death of Wil Lewis, an innocent bystander and victim of the neighborhood's gang violence.

DNAinfo Chicago has rounded up the Far North Side's top stories of 2014.

1. Senn High's Jessica Velez, Prom King, Football Player: There's no stopping Jessica Velez. In her time at Senn High School, she made the varsity football team and played as a wide receiver. Then, in her senior year, she was voted prom king by her peers. "I like to challenge myself," said Velez earlier this year, sitting at the dining room table in her parents' two-bedroom Sheridan Road condo in Edgewater. "And sometimes you get to the point where you challenge yourself to the point where you no longer fit with the status quo of, at least, the female gender." Velez was accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy and hopes one day to be a Navy SEAL.

2. Street Violence and a Targeted Rapper: In 2014, the gunplay began in February. Markeyo Carr, 17, was shot to death by a masked gunman in the parking lot of a Clark Street McDonald's. Three other teenagers — including the intended target, according to a police source — were also shot, but survived. The target, an Uptown rapper, was then shot at again in July. He wasn't hit, but a stray bullet struck and killed young photographer Wil Lewis, an innocent bystander. During a robbery on Dec. 5, Loyola University pre-med student Mutahir Rauf was shot and killed after a struggle for what he thought was a fake gun. The death rattled the neighborhood.

3. Great Horned Owl Swims in Lake Michigan: This was 2014's viral story. Bird watchers witnessed a rare avian event this fall when a Great Horned Owl was driven into Lake Michigan's frigid waters by a pair of attacking peregrine falcons. The birders were able to shield the owl so it could make its escape. Of course, a couple of photographers were able to capture the drama, including the mesmerizing images of the owl using its wings to swim. The video racked up nearly 2.5 million views.

4. SXSW Victims Fell in Love in Rogers Park: Evan and Jamie West's marriage of nearly two years had been rooted in Rogers Park. But their life together ended when a drunken driver slammed into their motorcycle March 13 near Austin's South by Southwest festival, which they had attended. Jamie West died at the scene and Evan West suffered significant injuries. The couple had lived in Rogers Park with their two dogs and worked at the Heartland Cafe before moving to Texas in 2010. Friends of the Wests organized a fundraiser at the Heartland to help pay for medical care.

5. Chicago Cops Spy on Heartland Cafe diners: Cafe diners and activists were shocked to hear Chicago cops spied on them at the North Side restaurant known for its liberal roots. The undercover officers had monitored patrons' conversations as part of an undercover surveillance operation to thwart violent protests during the 2012 NATO summit. The spying revelations came about as officer Nadia Chikko was cross-examined in January by defense attorney Michael Deutsch during the trial of the NATO 3 — Brian Church, Jared Chase and Brent Betterly — who were facing terrorism charges. Some activists called the spying "laughable."

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