Everywhere he goes, Chicago community activist Andrew Holmes has his daughter with him.
Tamara Sword, his 32-year-old daughter, was shot to death in 2015 while she sat in the passenger seat of a car parked near an Indianapolis nightclub. She was an innocent victim of a gun battle in the parking lot, police said. Two men have been charged in her killing.
Holmes, 57, carries a keychain with Sword’s picture on it. It reminds him to remain strong in his mission of consoling the families of homicide victims, asking the community to help the police solve murders and assisting the victims of human trafficking.
Holmes said his daughter was his inspiration in the latest tragedy to hit him personally: the slaying of his 11-year-old cousin, Takiya Holmes, who — like his daughter — was killed by a stray bullet.
Takiya was shot in the head as she sat in the back seat of a van on Saturday in the 6500 block of South King Drive in the Parkway Gardens neighborhood. Takiya’s mother and aunt were in the front seat, and were unharmed. Takiya died Tuesday.
As he has done in more than 900 other homicides in Chicago and the suburbs, Holmes hit the streets after Takiya’s shooting to get people in the neighborhood to give up the name of the suspected shooter.
“You can only hide so long — and those hiding you have to suffer the consequences, too,” he said.
Holmes said he learned the name of the 19-year-old suspect, Antwan C. Jones, and his nickname, Ray Jay, and obtained a photo of him. On Tuesday, Holmes and other community activists, including Wallace “Gator” Bradley, a former enforcer with the Gangster Disciples street gang, worked their sources on the streets.
They showed Jones’ photo to people in the Parkway Gardens neighborhood and other parts of the city to put pressure on him. “This is real community policing,” Bradley said.
Jones surrendered to detectives at Area Central police headquarters at about 9 p.m. Tuesday and asked for a lawyer, said Anthony Guglielmi, chief spokesman for the police department. Early Wednesday, Chicago Police detectives obtained a murder charge against Jones in the killing of Takiya.
Guglielmi said detectives identified Jones with surveillance video. He also said gang intelligence officers spoke to informants who provided information about Jones.
But Holmes was key to the arrest, Guglielmi said. “Andrew urged the community to turn him in,” he said. “The community was helpful in urging Mr. Jones to turn himself in.”
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Holmes is a ubiquitous presence on local TV newscasts.
Many times when there is a shooting — and there were more than 4,300 of them in Chicago last year — he is seen standing in solidarity with victims’ families. Almost always clad in a suit and tie, he could be mistaken for a homicide detective.
More than 25 years ago, Holmes was a victim of gun violence himself. He was shot in the leg and had to learn how to walk again.
For decades, he’s counseled shooting victims’ families and urged the public to help solve murders. When she just 11 years old, his late daughter helped him pass out flyers asking the public to call the police with information about violent crimes.
Holmes became a community activist as an aide to former Ald. Terry Peterson (17th) and former state Rep. Milton Patterson, D-Chicago. After Patterson left office in 2009, Holmes continued to work on behalf of senior citizens, victims of domestic abuse and families of homicide victims.
In 2015, Holmes joined Chicago Survivors, a nonprofit group funded in part with taxpayer money that works closely with the Chicago Police Department to counsel murder victims’ families.
Crisis responders like Holmes are available 24/7 to rush to the scene of a murder or a hospital — wherever the surviving family members are. He explains everything from what to expect at the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office to how a typical murder investigation unfolds.
The crisis responders were funded under a U.S. Department of Justice grant. In 2015, they earned about $40,000 a year, city officials said. The federal funding that supported Chicago Survivors ended last year, but Chicago is continuing to support the organization with $250,000 in city funding in 2017, officials said.
Holmes, who holds a state license that allows him to work as a private investigator, is also the president of Operation Restoring Justice, another nonprofit group that works to recover victims of human trafficking. Most of the victims are young women who are forced into prostitution.
“We return them to their families, get them back in school and back on track,” he said.
In recent years, the FBI, the Cook County Board of Commissioners and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People have all recognized Holmes for his work.
“He’s been a great partner with the administration and the police department,” said Adam Collins, a spokesman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who went on the Steve Harvey show to proclaim Feb. 26, 2014, as Andrew Holmes Day in the city of Chicago.
Despite the accolades, the work takes its toll.
In an interview Wednesday, Holmes briefly lost his composure as he talked about the latest tragedy in his life. He choked up as he spoke of his slain 11-year-old cousin.
“She loved to dance,” he said. “They are a close-knit family. It’s tough, man. But I can’t give up. You can’t give up. If I give up, I’ve given up on everybody, everybody I love.”