A nineteen year old boy who hung out nearly every day with his friends on the stoop next to mine was shot twice and killed by a police officer yesterday around 5 pm at the intersection of 54th and MLK, two blocks from my house.
I have heard conflicting reports, which doesn't strike me as unusual. Police say a loaded gun was found at the scene. Other eyewitnesses say the boy was shot in the back as he was running away. The police had tried to detain him as a homicide suspect, but were unable to restrain him. He was not, however, particularly large.
This is crazy for so many reasons.
If the police are wrong, then this kid who has always struck me as a good kid, who has never caused anything untoward to happen in the year I've lived in this neighborhood, who always says 'hey' or 'hey' back or nods hello, who never does anything in his spare time but hang out and talk with his friends on the stoop is an innocent victim of--what? a case of mistaken identity? A panicked choice to run from police?
If the police are right, then this kid who has always struck me as a good kid, who has never caused anything untoward to happen in the year I've lived in this neighborhood, who always says 'hey' or 'hey' back or nods hello, who never does anything in his spare time but hang out and talk with his friends on the stoop killed someone yesterday afternoon.
The devastated faces of his friends today as they gathered to console each other were a lesson in humility. Because this boy was closely linked to the two-flat I live in, most of the gathering took place in my driveway. One of the kids talked with me for awhile about how they were trying to stay strong. All I cared about was making sure they stayed safe and he reassured me that they were. Even though there was some drinking, and the grief on their faces was immeasurable--one other boy just leaned against the house and cried for hours--no one got out of hand. What I am trying to say, again, is that they all just seemed like good kids. Some adults in the neighborhood helped a lot too, ordering pizzas for the kids, supervising, etc.
I know good kids do bad things sometimes because I used to work in child services in Chicago. I've seen it happen. A good kid makes a terrible choice.
(I was a fucking idiot when I was nineteen years old. A lot of us were. A lot of us (self included, I hope) lucked out and got a chance to grow out of it. )
But I also know the police do bad things (or just plain make mistakes) and lie about it to cover their asses. Again, in Chicago, I've witnessed stunning displays of police brutality from my living room window.
I don't pray. I don't believe in god. When the boy who spoke to me today on my driveway told me that he believed his friend was looking down upon him and his other friends able to see how they were staying strong for him, I didn't know exactly what to say. I certainly didn't contradict him. I just kept listening.
So I don't believe in praying. But I believe it's possible to wish people well and that that act can mean something. So even though I may never really talk at length with those kids again, and even though I know that none of them are ever going to read my blog, I can wish for them.
They are so shocked and so angry and so hurt regardless of what the 'facts' of the case turn out to be, if they can be found out for sure at all. So I wish for each and every one of them, but especially for the boy who spoke at length to me today, and for the other boy who just leaned against the side of the house and cried for what seemed like hours, that they can find healthy ways to express their grief and their anger, that expression of grief can slowly (so slowly) aid towards its eventual assuagement, that though none of them will ever be able to forget, they will be able eventually to remember their friend with joy and not just sadness. That they all make good choices in their lives. That life doesn't come down too hard on them for the bad choices. Or that they at least get second chances and shots at redemption.
For all of you, my young neighbors. For all of you.