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Neighborhood recalls ‘quiet’ South Shore barber who died in police shooting

Harith Augustus | Facebook

Everyone along East 71st seemed to use the same word Sunday to describe Harith Augustus.


They also called him respectful and family oriented. But mostly, they said he kept to himself. And so, to Grafton Burke, it was surprising that Augustus would get into the kind of fatal confrontation with Chicago police that would lead to protests.

“I didn’t even know he had a voice,” Burke said.

Augustus, 37, died Saturday after officers tried to question him in the 2000 block of East 71st Street, close to where he lived and worked as a barber in the South Shore neighborhood.

He went by the nickname “Snoop” and worked at the Sideline Studio barbershop at 71st and Euclid. Though his family could not be reached, a long-time customer of his said he had a 5-year-old daughter. His Facebook page said he went to De La Salle Institute and studied at Kennedy-King College.

Police said Augustus “became combative” when officers tried to question him Saturday as he exhibited “characteristics of an armed person.”

When the Chicago Police Department released body camera footage of Augustus’ shooting with uncharacteristic speed Sunday, Supt. Eddie Johnson said Augustus’ family had been consulted.

Source; Chicago Police Department

“The family wants to ensure that there’s a just investigation,” Johnson said, “but they also said to me that they want to make sure this city doesn’t overreact.”

Augustus lived about a 10-minute walk from the barbershop near 71st and South Merrill near O’Keefe Elementary School on a block with a large community garden, records show. Following his shooting death, though, people who knew him seemed to gather around the barbershop.

Muath Zid, who runs a convenience store next door, said Augustus would stop in for chips and cigars. He said Augustus rarely spoke. Burke, who said he lived in a nearby apartment, repeatedly described Augustus as “aloof.”

“I was shocked when they said it was him,” Burke said.

If anything seemed intimidating about Augustus, Burke said, it was that he liked to dress in black. In his spare time between customers, Burke said Augustus would simply sit quietly in his chair.

“It was like he was meditating,” Burke said.

Gloria Rainge, the customer who had been coming to Augustus for about five years, called him “cool,” “laid back” and “very intelligent.”

Augustus had no recent arrest history, according to a Chicago police spokesman. He was charged with two misdemeanor counts of battery and a misdemeanor count of marijuana possession in three separate incidents over a decade ago, according to Cook County court records. He wasn’t convicted in any of the cases.

Johnson said at a Sunday afternoon press conference that Augustus had a Firearm Owners Identification Card (FOID) but no concealed carry permit. People on East 71st thought otherwise when they spoke to a reporter earlier in the day.

Jason Vaughn, a fellow barber in the area, said Augustus would “do anything in the world for you.” If a customer was short on cash, Augustus would cut them a break. He said that’s because Augustus had a passion for cutting hair.

“He loves helping the community,” Vaughn said. “Everybody wants to look nice. He cuts hair. Same way I feel.”

Anthony Wright said he saw the fatal shooting Saturday night. He said the death of a community fixture — “a good guy” who was “on his way home” — upset him.

He said Augustus didn’t deserve to die the way he did.

“I watched him die in the street,” Wright said.

Video by Marcus DiPaola and Nader Issa

Contributing: Nader Issa