CHICAGO — Jason Barrett, a young man seen trying to change his life from behind bars in the CNN series "Chicagoland," has been killed.
"Chicagoland" started with Barrett, then 20, who was jailed for robbery but hoping to be released with the help of his Fenger High School principal, Liz Dozier. Barrett was released, the documentary showed, but he continued to face obstacles that sent him back to jail or kept him in Roseland.
At 4:16 p.m. Monday, Barrett was in the first block of East 113th Place when someone got out of a silver SUV and fired shots at him, officials said. He was hit in his chest and taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in critical condition.
Barrett was pronounced dead at 5 p.m.
The shooting comes nearly a year after another "Chicagoland" star and Fenger alumnus, Lee McCullum Jr., was gunned down in Pullman.
"Chicagoland" showed how Dozier worked to have Barrett released early from jail so he could get a fresh start. Barrett and Dozier both feared he could return to jail due to a lack of options, partially because of his jail record and facial tattoos.
"When I get out, I'm gonna show you that ... I can be successful," Barrett told the principal. At another point, Barrett, then 20 and preparing to be released, said, "She really saw something in me. It was crazy. I ain't seen nothing in me."
On Wednesday, Dozier said Barrett had been one of the "best people" she knew. He was funny and kind, but sometimes "people put a label on him," she said.
Barrett had struggled in some areas of school, Dozier said, but not because he lacked the ability to succeed.
Dozier met Barrett around the time she first started at Fenger, but even after he graduated he'd visit her or send her encouraging messages about her work — telling her he was proud of her. The two last spoke around Christmas.
“He’s really symbolic to me of what’s wrong with what’s happening here,” Dozier said in an interview. “What are we doing? We have these kids ages 16 to 24 who are not working, not in school. How is everyone stepping up to make sure that there’s a place in our city for those children, that [they] have a viable pathway to a productive life?”
Barrett's life colored Dozier's own path: He was the student she thought of when she moved from Fenger to Chicago Beyond, an organization that works to create programs designed to help the city's kids stay safe and achieve their educational goals.
The former principal wanted for Barrett what she wants for all children, she said: a "fair path" and a shot at achieving "what they want out of their lives."
That's not available to everyone, Dozier said, noting that some children in Chicago are exposed to "unimaginable trauma" or who are expected to "pull themselves up by their bootstraps" despite the odds they face.
"Some of our kids here in the city ... don't have that opportunity and they don't have that access," Dozier said. "This whole notion of freedom — I don't think we all have access to it. What have we become where people are just getting mowed down in the streets and dying? Literally in the streets. It's unconscionable."
"Chicagoland" showed Barrett smiling as he got out of jail, meeting with Dozier and going to a halfway house as he tried to pursue a different future.
"I feel like if I mess up this time, everything just over for me. So I can't just let all this go down the drain," Barrett said.
But Barrett's challenges continued, with the documentary noting he struggled to get a job, had to leave the halfway house and was arrested for robbery and jailed.
"I know what people will say about him, and that is what it is," Dozier said. "But I wish they knew that he was a real person. He was someone's brother. He was someone's son. He has friends."
Dozens of messages were posted to Barrett's Facebook after the shooting Monday, with friends and relatives saying they were praying for him and hoping he pulled through before learning he had died.
Your "life [is too] short to be taken," one wrote. "Mother always say God love you more. You home now."
Barrett could "make anyone smile," another person posted while another message said, "The good die young where I'm from."