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Wicker Park Murder Was Third Recent Shooting on the Same Busy Block

By Alisa Hauser | March 10, 2016 9:51am | Updated on March 10, 2016 9:59am
 Commuters and business owners near the CTA Blue Line Division "L" stop on Thursday, the morning after a fatal shooting that killed a 19-year-old man.
Near the CTA Division Blue Line Stop, March 2016
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WICKER PARK —  The first fatal shooting of the year in Wicker Park has friends and family in mourning, and neighbors and businesses in the area on edge.

The slaying of Cesar Perez, 19, happened near the busy CTA Division Blue Line stop during Wednesday's evening rush hour. 

Perez, who lived two bocks away from the murder scene in the 1400 block of West Division, was shot in in the head. Police say it was a targeted, gang-related shooting. The killer ran away and is at large.

"He was a beautiful person. So intelligent, so strong," said his sister Brittany Perez, 25, as she lit candles at a memorial for her brother near the crime scene Thursday. "He loved his family so much. We want to find the person who did this. They robbed my little brother of his life. He was only 19." 

His older sister said Perez was the second oldest of four siblings and was born in Chicago and grew up in Wicker Park. Though he dropped out of Wells High School in 2012, he planned to get his GED, said a friend, who only identified herself as Jessica. She and about a dozen others gathered near the neighborhood's Polish Triangle to pay their respects. 

The area's alderman, Brian Hopkins (2nd), said police "have some leads they are working on."

The shooting came near the border of Chicago's Shakespeare and Near West Side police districts, so both districts are now involved, he said.

"Since this is a joint investigation involving two districts, the advantage is extra manpower," he said.

The murder was the year's first fatal shooting in Wicker Park. But the block has been the scene of other recent shootings. Three men were wounded in a drive-by shooting and another man was wounded in the same block in January.

Rita Raichoudhuri, principal of Wells Community Academy High School, said the incident Wednesday happened while several students were coming back from soccer practice to the campus, at 936 N. Ashland Ave, a few blocks south of the CTA stop.

"It was horrible. I have crisis workers in case they need to talk to anyone," Raichoudhuri said. 

Perez was a former student at Wells, Raichoudhuri said.

James Wattosion, a student at Senn High School, was waiting to take the CTA Ashland Ave. No. 9 bus to school around 8 a.m. Thursday.

"It's kind of scary. When I got home from school last night, my grandma told me about it. I stayed late at a friend's place after school and didn't see anything [on the way home]," Wattosion said.

Wattison and other commuters were standing just a few feet from where police had roped off the street the previous night.

Mohammad Abdul Matheen, manager of Food Mart, a convenience store at 1219 N. Milwaukee Ave., which is in front of where Perez was shot, said that he is very concerned about Wednesday's shooting.

"The neighborhood, four or five years ago, it was better," Matheen said.

John Connolly, a Wicker Park resident who was coming home from work at the time of the incident and was among a group of first responders to try and help Perez, said that the Division station and bus stops are often crowded with students going home from school, as well as Downtown commuters. 

"It was such a shame that this shooting had to occur before their eyes,” Connolly said of the teenagers.

Kapra Fleming, a Wicker Park resident and owner of Two Urns Bed & Breakfast, located around the corner from the intersection, said that her daughter was headed back home from Downtown at the time of the shooting.

"She stayed a little later to help someone at school but would have been walking right past where it happened," Fleming said.

A resident of the area for 29 years, Fleming said that when she moved here in the late 1980s, the neighborhood was "like the Wild West" and overrun with gangs.  

"As a Wicker Park person, I am shocked. As a Chicagoan, looking at what is happening citywide, it is so out of control. No one is safe anywhere," Fleming said.

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