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Slain 16-Year-Old Is Latest Casualty On Once-Safe Block, Now 'Wild West'

By Alex Nitkin | April 26, 2016 7:18am | Updated on April 26, 2016 12:47pm
 A trail of blood remains in the 7300 block of South Sangamon Street, where a man was shot in his leg Sunday, neighbors said. Two teens were shot in the same block, one fatally, the next day.
A trail of blood remains in the 7300 block of South Sangamon Street, where a man was shot in his leg Sunday, neighbors said. Two teens were shot in the same block, one fatally, the next day.
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DNAinfo/Alex Nitkin

ENGLEWOOD — In the 54 years Shirley has lived in Englewood, the sights and sounds of shootings have become a routine part of her life. But nothing prepared her for the sight of a 16-year-old boy lying dead on her front lawn Monday afternoon. 

Around 4:45 p.m., Shirley, who declined to reveal her last name, said she heard eight gunshots outside her house in the 7300 block of South Sangamon Street. She came out to see Davharea Wilson, who lives in the next block, motionless and bleeding from a gunshot wound in his head.

"It was so horrifying, so nerve-wracking," Shirley said, her voice shaking. "All I could think of was my own grandsons — what if it was one of them lying there?"

Davharea had been standing on the block next to an 18-year-old man when a man wearing a black hoodie walked up and shot at them, according to Officer Ana Pacheco, a Chicago Police Department spokeswoman.

Davharea was pronounced dead on the scene, Pacheco said, and the man he was with was brought to Stroger Hospital with a gunshot wound in his shoulder. Police said the other shooting victim was "stable."

When officers moved Davharea's body, Shirley said, a pistol came into view.

Though it had been decades since she considered the neighborhood truly safe, she said, the block had reached a new and terrifying level of dysfunction just in the last two years.

A handful of neighbors, like Lee Woods, echoed her opinion. It had always been dangerous — the block is on a gang boundary, after all — but since around 2014, it had become "like the Wild West," he said.

Woods' cousin, in fact, was shot in his leg on the same block only a day earlier, he said. On Tuesday, a trail of the man's dried blood was still on sidewalk.

It had gotten so bad, he said, that he moved up to the Garfield Park neighborhood in 2015.

"I just decided, I had to get out of Englewood — 'cause it's not just this block, it's the whole area," Woods said. "But I once I got out west, it was just the same old thing. You can't get away from it."

Englewood has become unrecognizable since 1962, when Shirley's family first bought their home, she said. Looking back across the decades, she remembered a time when "kids were always out here playing, and you could sit out on your stoop talking to people until two, three in the morning."

The violence has gotten so bad, neighbors said, that they decided earlier this year to cancel the block club's annual outdoor party. In the 40-plus years since Shirley helped found the club, she said, the group has held the event every single year.

"Every August we're out here giving out hot dogs and punch, and it brings in kids from all over," she said. "We just can't do that anymore. Someone might come and start shooting."

Police said both the teens shot Monday were documented gang members. But when Shirley looks at the shooters terrorizing her block, she said, she doesn't see organized criminals.

"We're talking about kids who grew up together, kids who went to grammar school together," she said. "And now they're killing each other. Most aren't older than 20 years old."

With three teenage grandsons, she said, keeping them out of the fray is an exhausting struggle.

"All I can do is talk to them every day," Shirley said. "I tell them to be safe, not to get mixed up in all that. But as soon as they walk out that door, they have a mind of their own. All they hear is their friends."

It's all gotten so overwhelming, Shirley said, that for the first time in more than five decades, she's considering moving out of the city.

"It's not like I can just up and leave, it's not that easy," she said. "But I can't just stay here if I feel like I'm under threat all the time."

No one is in custody for the shooting, Pacheco said.

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