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Basketball Champion Teen Killed Day After 'Peace Tournament' at St. Sabina

By Kelly Bauer | September 21, 2015 8:23am | Updated on September 21, 2015 2:48pm
 Deionte Harris (left) was 18 when he was killed in a shooting. He graduated high school in May and celebrated with his sister, Autumn Dawson (right).
Deionte Harris (left) was 18 when he was killed in a shooting. He graduated high school in May and celebrated with his sister, Autumn Dawson (right).
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Courtesy Autumn Dawson

CHICAGO — An 18-year-old fatally shot in Auburn Gresham over the weekend was "trying to do the right thing" before he was killed, the Rev. Michael Pfleger said.

The victim was identified as Deionte Harris, of the 8200 block of South Bishop Avenue, in Cook County Medical Examiner's records. He was in the 8400 block of South Hermitage Avenue when he was shot in his face and thigh at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, said Officer Janel Sedevic, Chicago Police spokeswoman.

Harris was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center, where he was later pronounced dead, Sedevic said. He died at 11:05 a.m., according to Medical Examiner's records.

Harris, who was called "Te," loved basketball and has played since he could throw the ball, his great-aunt Karen Thomas said. He played for his grade school team and at Bogan High School, where his team won the Public League Championship this year. His dream was to go pro, Thomas said, but he was held back by his 5-foot-9 frame, so he decided on becoming a computer technician.

Harris was on his way to McDonald's and then to play a game when he was killed, Thomas said. He was taking classes at a junior college.

"It just — it doesn't make sense," she said, standing outside Harris' home on Monday. "He didn't gangbang. He didn't sell drugs. He just graduated high school."

The family will have to fundraise to pay for Harris' funeral, though Thomas said she's not yet sure how they'll do that. There will be a vigil for Harris 6-6:30 p.m. Monday at 82nd and Hermitage, Pfleger said.

Harris' best friend since his childhood, Akim Gaddis, was killed just a week before Harris was fatally shot at 84th and Loomis, family and friends said. Autumn Dawson, Harris' younger sister, said Gaddis was also talented at basketball and had received a scholarship to play at college. Dawson, who will have her birthday without her brother on Tuesday, said she's afraid of leaving her home, but even after Gaddis' death her brother would be outside.

"I miss my brother. He was my best friend," Dawson said. "I might be next. It's crazy. You're scared to do anything."

The area is plagued by a gang war that keeps kids from Harris' block from crossing Ashland Avenue on foot, Thomas said, though she doesn't think her great-nephew was targeted since he was not involved with gangs or drugs.

Violence did trouble Harris at times, though: He joined their church about four years ago, praying in the mornings and telling Harris he was concerned. "It's rough out there, G," he told Thomas, calling her by his nickname for her, she said.

And Harris' love for basketball led him to a peace tournament at St. Sabina the day before he was shot, Pfleger said.

"Saturday he's sitting in our gym, having a great time. Sunday, he's laying in a morgue," Pfleger said. "It's ridiculous. It's unacceptable."

Stars and anti-violence activists like Bulls player Derrick Rose and director Spike Lee were at the tournament, which was about "unity" and "bringing brothers together," Pfleger said. Harris' team was coached by Lee, who is directing "Chiraq," a movie about Chicago that's stirred controversy due to its name, a play on the city's violence.

Pfleger and Lee went to the spot where Harris was killed and then visited his mother and spoke with his friends on Sunday. Harris' friends are "very angry, very hurt," Pfleger said, calling the violence "senseless."

"It's a war zone," Pfleger said, noting that there had been nearly 50 people shot over the weekend. "This is kind of a self-inflicted genocide that's going on that we gotta stop. People are worried about a movie named 'Chiraq,' for God's sakes ... 48, 49 [people] shot, what the hell do you call it — 'Disneyland'?"

No one is in custody for the shooting and no further information was available, Sedevic said.

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