AUBURN GRESHAM — South Side residents gathered near the site of 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee's death Tuesday afternoon and passed out fliers and held up signs, hoping to bring peace to the area and find the boy's killer.
Led by Rev. Michael Pfleger, the group canvassed the blocks near 80th Street and Damen Avenue, where on Monday afternoon Tyshawn was fatally shot after an argument broke out in a nearby alley.
Because of the savageness of the crime, Pfleger said the killer must be found Tuesday before the community can heal.
"There used to be a street code. Lines were drawn. If you did [kill a kid], the streets took care of you," Pfleger said. "That line has been removed. We're here today putting the line back."
Reward upped to $20,000
Pfleger's group came equipped with fliers asking for information on the killing, but the reward amount of $11,000 on the fliers was incorrect. Pfleger said an anonymous Auburn Gresham man who played in the park across from where Lee was killed had donated another $5,000.
Pfleger said more anonymous donors had upped the reward to $20,000 by Tuesday afternoon.
"We want the person caught today," Pfleger said.
The 30 or so people with Pfleger blanketed the area with fliers and stopped cars on Damen, asking drivers to help bring peace to the area.
"It's sad to see our kids not even able to live life," said Kevin Rogers, who came to help pass out fliers. "They dont say, 'Dad, I wanna be a doctor.' They say, 'Dad, am I gonna make it home?'"
Tyshawn was shot about 4:15 p.m. Monday in the alley behind the 8000 block of South Damen Avenue.
A group was standing in the alley, across the street from a park, when an argument erupted, according to police. Someone pulled out a gun and started shooting, hitting Tyshawn in his head and chest, according to police. He died at the scene.
The area near the shooting scene was being heavily patrolled by police Tuesday afternoon, with dozens of detectives going door-to-door asking for information.
Those gathered were happy for the police presence, but said change at the community level would be more effective in stopping violence.
Watching the detectives and the residents with fliers go door-to-door was Frank Graham. The Auburn Gresham resident had heard of the shooting on the news and decided to do something.
He made his way out to Damen Avenue early Tuesday with four signs, asking for peace and calling for community action. When cars stopped by him, he simply said, "Love our children."
"My son and daughter grow up right here," said Graham, 25. "What happens to my neighbor happens to me."
He watched Pfleger direct his group across the street. He said he was thankful for Pfleger's leadership but said real change has to start with community members.
'Get off your couch'
He held up a sign imploring residents to "get off your couch and get involved."
"He's not a brown-skinned man and he's doing a lot more than many of us," Graham said of Pfleger. "We should think about that."
Pfleger and his group ended their day by gathering in the alley were Tyshawn was shot, saying a prayer and pleading for a stop to the violence.
The memorial the group prayed by was made possible by a group of three strangers who earlier in the day cleared the way for a memorial site.
The men followed a trail of blood drops in the alley and determined as best they could where the boy laid dying. The men bent over and began clearing weeds and debris from a patch of dirt near a garage so a makeshift memorial could be made.
"The least he deserves is a clean memorial site," said David Lee, who lives on nearby Morgan Street.
The men didn't know each other, but they had one thing in common, a shared grief for the boy who lost his life after an argument in the alley right behind his grandmother's house.
"A kid is out here just trying to follow his dreams and gets gunned down. It hurts," said Antwan Burns Jones, an Ashburn resident who came to the shooting site to pay his respects.
Jones doesn't live close enough to the scene to have heard the shooting or the aftermath, but he saw it on the news. Tuesday morning, Jones brought a stuffed bear and a Bible to the scene.
The fact that he's a father of a 10-year-old made the tragedy hit home, Jones said. He went to the scene in part because the he wanted to know more about how such a tragedy could occur.
"I couldn't imagine having to deal with this sadness every day of my life," he said. "I wanted to do anything I could."
William Moore drove from his Hyde Park home to visit the site.
Victim played basketbal
Moore has been a city resident for two years after moving to Chicago from Pittsburgh. He said of all of this city's tragedies, this one affected him the most.
"I got a son, too. It's just a sad situation," Moore said. "Since I've been here [in Chicago], it's been the same thing."
Moore went to the store and bought a basketball to leave at the memorial, after hearing on the news that Lee's own basketball was left at the scene after he died.
"Something told me to come out here," he said.
The group of men walked to the mouth of the alley, which faces a row of houses on 80th Street. They figured the fight probably started near the street, and tried to determine which neighbors might have heard or seen something.
Jones momentarily lost his composure and raised his voice, telling nobody in particular, "This is the blood of a 9-year-old child!"
"Someone has to have a heart," he continued. "Say something!"
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