Neighbors and friends of Steven Rosenthal said Saturday that authorities’ account of the 16-year-old shooting himself while running from police in Lawndale was out of character for the Crane High School basketball player.
Rosenthal died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head in the Friday evening encounter, officials said. According to Chicago police, officers spotted him with a gun and tried to stop him about 6:55 p.m. near his home in the 1500 block of South Keeler.
Rosenthal ran away, and then “tragically used the weapon on himself,” CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tweeted after the shooting.
He died a half hour later at Mount Sinai Hospital, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. An autopsy Saturday ruled his death a suicide.
Police said Saturday it wasn’t clear if officers’ body cameras captured the incident. A spokesman for the Civilian Office of Police Accountability said the agency is reviewing the case.
Saturday morning, a group of about 10 of Rosenthal’s neighbors and friends stood and talked a few houses down from where the shooting unfolded.
“He wasn’t a gang banger, he was just a hooper,” said 15-year-old boy who asked not to be identified.
“He’s been my homie since the sixth grade,” another 16-year-old friend said. “I don’t believe he would shoot himself. He just wouldn’t do something like that.”
A vigil for Rosenthal was called off early Saturday evening when a fight broke out among the dozens who gathered near 15th and Keeler.
Alonzo Crowder, head coach of boys basketball team at Crane Medical Prep High School, said Rosenthal had “a lot of charisma, had that smile that lights up a room. He played with passion, did everything with passion and was a really good student.
“He showed up at open gym, and from that moment I kind of fell in love with the kid,” he said. “He was very mature for his age and just tough as nails. He had a big heart, no moment seemed too big for him.”
But after Rosenthal’s mother died of an illness shortly after the season ended in March, the boy “was really lost,” Crowder said. His father died when he was 6.
“That’s why we kept calling him and tried to find ways to get him back,” Crowder said. “We wanted to just wrap around him, we knew he had tremendous loss … We had struggled with keeping contact with him over the summer. His phone was broken. We were trying to reach out to him on Facebook and get him in the gym.”
The coach described Rosenthal, a guard for Crane, as “one of those kids that is so likable and respectful. He was a ‘no sir, yes sir’ type of kid. He was clearly raised right.”
Crowder said he didn’t think Rosenthal would be a college player but thought he’d be a success in life.
“He was going to be a successful young man, he would have had a career,” Crowder said. “It wasn’t about talent with him, it was about everything else he brought to the game, the drive and passion.”