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Son of Chicago Police officer shot to death in Wrightwood

Arshell Dennis, 19, a son of a Chicago Police officer, was shot and killed early Sunday in the Wrightwood neighborhood. | Provided photo

The 19-year-old son of a Chicago Police officer was shot and killed outside his home in the Wrightwood neighborhood on the Southwest Side early Sunday, the same day he was scheduled to return to college in New York.

Arshell Dennis III and a 20-year-old man were sitting outside the home in the 2900 block of West 82nd Street a few minutes after midnight when a male approached and started shooting, according to Chicago Police and the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

Dennis, the son of Officer Arshell “Chico” Dennis, was shot in the chest and pronounced dead at Little Company of Mary Hospital at 12:45 a.m., authorities said.

The 20-year-old was shot in the arm and chest and taken to Christ Medical Center in serious condition, police said.

“Our family is deeply saddened by this tragic and senseless shooting,” according to a statement from the Dennis family.

“The loss of our son is stunning and painful. Trey was a junior in college at Saint John University, majoring in journalism. Tragically, we were going to take him to the airport today at 3 p.m. to return to school. Now because of this senseless violence, we will be grieving and planning his funeral. Trey was smart, funny and the light of our lives. We ask for privacy at this time as we collect ourselves and deal with this stunning loss,” the family said.

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The investigation into the shooting of two men, including the son of a Chicago Police officer, continued Sunday afternoon. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times
The investigation into the shooting of two men, including the son of a Chicago Police officer, continued Sunday afternoon. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson met privately with the Dennis family Sunday morning. Mayor Rahm Emanuel called to express his condolences, a family friend serving as a spokeswoman for the Dennis family said.

Johnson and Dennis served together as patrol officers in the 6th District.

“Officer Dennis dedicated his life to make this city safer, and his son Arshell was a good kid, making his parents proud and studying for a promising future as a journalist,” Johnson said in a statement distributed by police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.

“As always, the men and women of the CPD will stop at nothing to find who was responsible and bring a sense of closure and justice to Officer Dennis and all of the families affected by violence.

“But in order to address the root of this violence, we must change the way the criminal justice system treats the reckless, repeat gun offenders who are causing this violence and send a clear message that when you are involved in gun crimes you will be held accountable,” Johnson’s statement said.

Area South detectives are investigating.

Pat Williams, a neighbor who lives three doors away from the family, said she was home around midnight when she heard six shots come from the gangway next to her house. By the time she went outside to see what had happened, she said there were about 25 police officers who, after asking what she heard, found five bullet casings between her front yard, her neighbor’s front yard and the gangway between their houses.

Pat Williams, who lives on the block where the shooting happened, said she heard six gunshots around midnight in her house’s gangway. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times
Pat Williams, who lives on the block where the shooting happened, said she heard six gunshots around midnight in her house’s gangway. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times

“I left the Bronzeville neighborhood to come over here for a peaceful, less congested kind of neighborhood, so it doesn’t feel very good to see this,” she said.

Brenda, a neighbor who asked to be identified only by her first name, said she was in her living room when she heard several shots outside. She thought they were coming from her porch, so she crawled to the back of the house. After about five minutes of silence, she looked outside and realized the shooting happened across the street.

“I think it was the mother, and she was crying so hard I went to the back of the house to not hear it,” she said.

“He was a promising child,” she said of Arshell. “He was going somewhere — handsome, intelligent — and somebody must have mistaken his identity.”

Terri Bachstrom, who lives on the same block as the Dennis family, said she knew Arshell from working as a Chicago Public Schools lunchroom attendant. She said he was a quiet, well-mannered and great kid.

“He wasn’t in a gang. He wasn’t affiliated with any of the nonsense that’s going on in Chicago,” Bachstrom said. “He wasn’t one of those kids. He was just a different child all around the board, so I don’t understand why somebody would come in and shoot like that.”

Cesar Pantoja, who lives down the street from where the shooting happened, said there was a nearby party Saturday night that he thinks could have attracted the shooters to the quiet neighborhood. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times
Cesar Pantoja, who lives down the street from where the shooting happened, said there was a nearby party Saturday night that he thinks could have attracted the shooters to the quiet neighborhood. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times

Cesar Pantoja, who lives down the street from where the shooting happened, said he was leaving to meet his sister about five minutes before the shooting happened. He said he saw Arshell and his friend sitting in front of their home hanging out as he left the neighborhood.

“Everything was OK and they seemed to be having a good time,” Pantoja said. “I can’t get over that I saw them just before and he was alive and having a good time, then five minutes later this happens.”

Pantoja said violence is not common in the neighborhood. A party was going on nearby Saturday night, Pantoja said, so he suspects that the party could have attracted the shooters into the neighborhood.

“I’ve been here for 40 years and it’s been a very pleasant neighborhood, but sometimes when there are block parties, we do have problems like break-ins and other people,” he said. “The parties sometimes bring in outside elements to our neighborhood. I’m willing to bet [the shooting] has nothing to do with any of us here.”

Five bullet casings were found between the front yards of Pat Williams and her neighbor and the gangway between the two homes. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times
Five bullet casings were found between the front yards of Pat Williams and her neighbor and the gangway between the two homes. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times