Mitchell: Murder of police officer’s son touches us all

SHARE Mitchell: Murder of police officer’s son touches us all

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

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Everything about the murder of Arshell Dennis III makes me angry.

Once again, a young black man who was doing everything society expected of him is gunned down outside of his family’s home.

We’ve seen this tragedy unfold many times, but each time it happens we act as if it is a rare tragedy, like someone getting struck by lightning.

It was the same story six years ago when Thomas V. Wortham IV was fatally shot outside his parents’ Chatham home by young men who tried to steal his new motorcycle.

Wortham is remembered as a young man who served his country in the military, served his neighborhood by helping to provide a safe place for kids in the same park where he played as a child, and served his community by becoming a Chicago Police officer.

Dennis, a 19-year-old college student, was in the city for a family celebration and was on his way back to St. John’s University in New York when he was killed.


Follow @marymitchellPolice have said the young man was not the intended victim and describes this latest horrible shooting as a case of “mistaken identity.”

But frankly, the motives for these shootings no longer matter.

Here was a young black man who had dreams and a supportive family and, more than likely, another young black man who has none of those things gunned him down.

Activists should be in an uproar over this death just as they are in an uproar when police are accused of gunning down a black man.

At a news conference that was held in Cole Park after the Wortham’s murder, his father, retired Chicago Police Sgt. Thomas Wortham III, gave an assessment of our predicament.

“We have a problem, and the problem is citywide and nationwide. We cannot continue to raise a generation of kids who grow up and think they can kill people at will,” he said.

There have been so many other promising young black men gunned down that, at one point, the talk on the street was that these luminaries were being targeted because of their success.

Now here is speculation street gangs could be behind the random shootings.

I don’t know why there are so many young people in this city who do not value life. Maybe it is because too many of them have been raised in homes filled with despair. But something my daughter told me some time ago sticks in my mind:

“It makes little difference how loving and nurturing you are as a parent if you have to send your child out into a hostile and vicious world,” she told me.

Our family is fortunate. My grandson didn’t have a problem leaving his friends behind and moving to Toronto to live with his father, and two other grandsons are being raised in a different state.

But when my oldest grandson comes for an extended visit, I worry.

There’s no running to the neighborhood candy store or playing in the nearby park. He can’t catch the bus downtown or ride a bike along the lakefront.

It is sad that children who are growing up in neighborhoods under siege by gun violence are being robbed of their childhoods.

Too few leaders see this as a crisis. In fact, the gun deaths of young black men are being tolerated like an act of nature.

This senseless death will change the Dennis family, and the South Side’s Wrightwood neighborhood where this family lives.

Don’t take comfort in the fact that this didn’t happen on your block.

Each murder of an innocent and each gunshot that wounds or takes the life of a helpless child, change my family and your family as well.

Tweets by @marymitchell

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