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Afternoon Edition: Dec. 27, 2021

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

Iris Chavez, sister of Irene Chavez, and Angelique Gall, a friend, hug near a memorial they built outside the Grand Crossing District police station Monday morning. 
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

This afternoon will be partly sunny and breezy with a high near 46 degrees. Clouds will roll in tonight, and the temperature will drop to 31 degrees. Tomorrow, expect snow with chances for rain and a high of 38 degrees.

Top story

Family seeking answers after loved-one is found hanged in South Side police cell

A week before Christmas, Irene Chavez was at a gay bar on the South Side when she was arrested for simple battery.

Chavez, 33, ended up in a cell at the Grand Crossing Police Station. A few hours later, two detectives showed up at the Chavez family home on the South Side to deliver some devastating news: Chavez had been found hanged in that cell, her family says they were told.

On Monday, family gathered outside the police station at 7040 S. Cottage Grove Ave. to set up a makeshift memorial to honor Chavez and to seek answers. They say police have offered almost no specifics about the circumstances surrounding Chavez’s death.

Irene and Iris Chavez’s parents stood nearby Monday outside the station; the mother, Cynthia Chavez, at one point dropped to her knees to pray on the wet pavement.

Iris Chavez said police gave her a heavily redacted incident report the morning her sister died. She said they told her her sister had hanged herself with a shirt. Irene Chavez was at Jeffery Pub on South Jeffery, where she was arrested for simple battery, her sister said. But the sister said she knows almost nothing about the circumstances of the arrest, including what led to it.

“If you danced with her that night at Jeffery Pub or just bought her a drink or she bought you one, come forward. Nobody is giving me answers,” Iris Chavez said.

Stefano Esposito has more on the family’s search for answers.

More news you need

  1. Rudy Malnati Jr., a member of Chicago’s pizza dynasty and longtime director of the Chicago Air and Water Show, died Christmas Eve at his Lake Forest home after a five-year battle with gallbladder cancer, his wife said. Nader Issa and Maureen O’Donnell have more on Malnati’s life and legacy here.
  2. A Kwanzaa celebration at Malcolm X College scheduled for Wednesday has been canceled because of the rising number of COVID-19 cases, which are up 129% in the city over the previous week according to Chicago Department of Public Health. That’s over 2,500 new cases daily on average with a positivity rate of 9.2%.
  3. Sufferin’ sucky trash! This year brought plenty of lousy films, and one (but only one) was worse than “Space Jam: A New Legacy.” These were the lousiest movies of 2021.
  4. Venture capital rolled in during 2021 and startups and young companies added jobs as a result. World Business Chicago crows that the city now plays in the top-tier tech league of San Francisco, New York, Boston and Los Angeles.

A bright one

With art as with gardening, Albany Park muralist Christian Paz creates something from nothing

The mural outside a North Side liquor store features flowing flowers and a hovering hummingbird, but it’s more than a commentary on nature, artist Christian Paz says.

“The hibiscus flower represents one of my favorite places on earth, Maui,” says Paz, 39, who lives in Albany Park.

The “plumerias are a representation of my kids” — he has four kids, the youngest born Dec. 21. “The birds of paradise are some of my favorite plants, and the lilies are just decorative.”

Christian Paz’s “Mi Jardin” mural at Irving Park Road and Francisco Avenue, which he completed in 2020.
Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

Paz says the “roses are for my mother” — a “green thumb” who “usually plants cucumbers, peppers, mint, zucchini, tomatoes and fills the rest of the garden with whatever plants are on sale. But one of her favorites is the Easter lily.”

Paz says he’s come to appreciate gardening more during the pandemic. It’s become an outlet for him.

Tucked within the flowers in the mural is a human heart, which he says represents love and the passage from the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament that says: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

“Treasure is found — for me — in God’s grace,” Paz says.

Read more about this mural, which can be found at Irving Park Road and Francisco Avenue, here.

From the press box

Your daily question ☕

What does your post-Christmas weekend recovery look like?

Reply to this email (please include your first name and where you live) and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Last Thursday, we asked you: Do you think Cook County’s vaccine mandate for indoor diners will increase the number of vaccinations against COVID-19? Tell us why or why not.

Here’s what some of you said…

“No, it will increase the number of closed businesses, unemployment, poverty, etc, and people will choose to dine in other counties and even states because they’re fed up with Illinois.” — Erika Hoffmann

“I think so. Some people hadn’t prioritized getting vaccinated and this will put it top of mind. Others have been on the fence, feeling unsure about the quick pace of the rollout. But plenty of us have been vaxxed for a year now and have been fine.” — Marilyn Scharko

“Nope. If they haven’t gotten the vaccine now they aren’t going to.” — Cathi Kiki

“We don’t know that but it will keep all those who go to that establishment safer. I’d go there vs a restaurant that doesn’t have those rules.” — Claudia Huggins

“Dupage County and neighboring counties will flourish.” — Schultz Ryan

Thanks for reading the Chicago Afternoon Edition. Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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