WICKER PARK—The family of Cesar Perez, a 19-year-old teen who was gunned down near a busy Wicker Park intersection last month, held a "Unite to STOP the Violence Vigil" on Friday to show that their loved one was much more than a target for judgmental online comments.
As the family tries to process the shocking death of the slain Wicker Park teen, online comments began to pile on. Especially after police described Perez as a "known gang member" who was targeted by his killer.
Angela Santiago, a co-worker of Perez's sister, attended the vigil. She was holding a sign that a had a printout of online comments from the DNAinfo article describing the shooting.
"Whomever wrote these posts is trying to portray the family in a certain way. For someone to try to demean a family based off of who they're around is unfathomable," Santiago said. "Anytime he [Perez] came by, he wasn't with any shady characters. For someone to make a speculation like that is ridiculous."
Perez's mother Marsha gathered friends and family at the Polish Triangle in the 1200 block of North Milwaukee Avenue, at the intersection of Milwaukee and Ashland Avenues. The people gathered released white balloons in the air at 6:37 p.m., the time that Perez died on March 9th.
Perez told DNAinfo that her son was nicknamed "The Referee" because he often got in the middle of neighborhood disagreements in order to stop them.
"My son was more of a man than most. He had a heart of gold. He didn't fear anyone," Perez said. "He wasn't a gang member but the police say he was. My son has affiliations due to his friends from grammar school but sadly, they turned to the streets."
Perez believes that the person who killed her son knew him.
"Whomever did this is a coward. All these children are our future," Perez said. "When you kill someone, you can't bring them back. The person who shot him lost his life as well. Now, they're on the run."
The area's alderman, Brian Hopkins (2nd), told residents the shooter was described as Hispanic man in his 20s, weighing about 150 pounds, standing approximately 5-foot, 7-inches tall and wearing a red Chicago Bulls jacket.
No arrests had been made in the slaying as of Saturday.
Jasmine Molina, Perez's aunt, echoes Santiago's sentiments about online trolls passing judgment on her nephew. She got wind of the comments from her daughter, LeLani.
"It makes no sense. This is Wicker Park, we're a melting pot. To see someone who is a community member say things like this outrages me," Molina said. "We want to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else's child. Posts like this causes more trouble."
Molina issued a challenge to the online trolls.
"These posts can cause more violence. If you have something to say, why don't you come down here and contribute to the community and help us," Molina said. "Don't hide behind your computer and post negative comments."
ICYMI, the families of murder victims read the comment section. pic.twitter.com/mI6BpbL6w7— Evan F. Moore (@evanFmoore) April 8, 2016
Due to the murder of her son, Perez said she can never look at her neighborhood in the same way.
"Everyday, I walk out and I feel like I'm walking on some child's blood," Perez said. "Chicago is ugly."
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