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Galewood townhome that was site of viral party also hosted smaller gathering a month earlier

CFD Cmdr. Christine Matthews said a March party for 10 people, like the larger one in April, was held by her son. He doesn’t live there but has a key. Matthews said she didn’t learn of the first party until after the second one.

A viral Facebook Live video on Saturday night captured a packed house party during the coronavirus pandemic.
A viral Facebook Live video captured a packed house party on April 25 during the coronavirus pandemic.
Tink Purcell/Facebook

The Galewood townhome used to host a videotaped house party on April 25 was the scene of a smaller gathering March 26 that triggered neighbor complaints and a visit, but no citations, from police.

Like the second gathering, Chicago Fire Department Cmdr. Christine Matthews said the earlier party, attended by 10 people, was hosted by her 26-year-old son, who doesn’t live with her, but has a key to her townhome “for emergencies.”

Matthews said she didn’t find out about the first party until the second, larger party went viral. Matthews worked 24-hour shifts as a paramedic on both days.

“If I had known about the first party, that second party would have never happened . . . I would have took my keys. I would have locked my house down. He wouldn’t have access to my house to throw an even bigger, messier party,” Matthews said.

“I work a 24-hour shift and I’m off 24 hours . . . I’m working a lot of overtime . . . I didn’t know about the first party until I went to the police station about the last party. And when I went to apologize to my neighbors, they said there was a party a couple of weeks ago. I worked really hard to get this house. Even if it wasn’t a pandemic, I would not be OK with having all of those people in my house, period.”

Janeal Wright, Matthews’ son, has said he’s “remorseful,” was oblivious to the need for social distancing and hopes to win his mother’s forgiveness by spreading the word about the coronavirus, particularly among millennials in black neighborhoods. Chicago’s black and brown communities have borne the brunt of the pandemic.

But how was he unaware of the dangers of the second party, after the earlier gathering prompted neighbor complaints and a police visit?

On Monday, Wright blamed Chicago Police officers for failing to deliver the tough-love message he needed to hear.

“The police told us, ‘Get everyone out of the premises because it was loud.’ They didn’t tell us about, ‘Hey, you can’t do this here. You can’t have these many people in the house.’ They didn’t tell me that. They didn’t mention the pandemic. They just said it was loud, it got out of hand and my neighbors ended up calling,” Wright told the Sun-Times.

Video footage of the April 25 party in the 2000 block of North Narragansett Avenue went viral, infuriating Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

Videographer Tink Purcell streamed part of the chaotic Saturday night scene live on Facebook. Clips posted online showed dozens of people crammed into the home, and hardly anyone wearing face masks.

On Monday, Wright acknowledged the second party was a memorial to two friends who were victims of gun violence.

“I knew the seriousness of COVID-19, but I didn’t take it as seriously because it wasn’t attacking my peers. It wasn’t killing people around me or my friends or my family, but gun violence is,” Wright said.

“That’s one thing that’s killing us that we know all too real. I have to watch my back around the city all the time. That’s what’s killing the young people, the millennials in my community.”

As a paramedic racing from call-to-call treating coronavirus patients, Matthews said she sees first-hand every day how oblivious young people are to the pandemic raging around them.

“People his age are not taking it serious. They don’t realize the severity. When I go on calls and I see people his age, they are outside. They are close together. They don’t have any masks. They’re young. They’re fearless and stupid,” Matthews said.

The pair of unauthorized parties have strained the relationship between mother and son.

Matthews said the townhome she spent $290,000 to purchase has a cracked bannister, a clogged toilet and smudges all over the freshly-painted white walls.

Even worse, she’s afraid to have her grandchild over until she sanitizes the entire home with bleach.

Matthews was asked if she’s willing to accept her son’s apology and reconcile.

“Eventually one day. I mean — he’s my son. But right now with everything that I’m going through, no,” the paramedic said.

“I’m talking to him. Our relationship is not what it was and it probably will never be. He’s called me to apologize numerous times and I’ve told him that he’s cut off financially and everything. Like a mother supports her child? I cannot do that.”