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Mother of murdered NU grad student: ‘I wanted there to be a connection’

Shane Colombo was killed by a stray bullet in Rogers Park just hours after moving to the area to begin studying for his doctorate degree at NU.

Andrew Holmes credits his own investigation in the arrest of driver who wounded his sister Jan. 29, 2020.
Standing with community activist Andrew Holmes, Tonya Colombo plays a podcast in which Colombo’s son, Shane, had talked about his research. Tonya Colombo flew to Chicago to attend a hearing Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019, for Diante Speed, who is charged with her son’s murder.
Andy Grimm for the Sun-Times

Tonya Colombo took a long flight to attend a short hearing Tuesday at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse.

The status hearing for Diante Speed took about five minutes, but it marked the first time Colombo could make the trip from her home in California and lay eyes on the man charged with the murder of her son, Northwestern University graduate student Shane Colombo.

Speed, 20, was arrested earlier this month on murder charges for allegedly firing the shots that killed 25-year-old Shane Colombo Sept 2.

Shane Colombo, who had just moved to the Chicago area to begin a doctoral program at Northwestern University, was caught in crossfire between Speed and gang rivals as he walked in the 7600 block of North Clark in Rogers Park.

“I wanted there, to be a face to go with the name Shane Colombo,” Tonya Colombo said about being present at Tuesday’s hearing. She told reporters she saw Speed wave and blow a kiss to his mother and grandmother in the courtroom gallery as he was led out of the courtroom by sheriff’s deputies.

“I wanted there to be a connection whether it be for him, his family, his lawyer... the judge. I wanted them to know that we intend to be here as often as possible to represent my son,” Tonya Colombo said.

Speed’s mother said her son was innocent as she left the courthouse.

“I raised him to be a good boy,” the woman said as she walked out with her mother. “He just got mixed up with some bad people.”

Cook County prosecutors say that surveillance video showed Speed firing a gun at a man in a bus shelter, spraying bullets that struck Shane Colombo as he carried groceries near his recently purchased condo in Evanston. Shane Colombo was hit several times in the abdomen, and died soon after at Presence Saint Francis Hospital in Evanston. Shane Colombo had been accepted into a Ph.D. program at Northwestern, and was thrilled to move to the Evanston campus, his mother said.

Tonya Colombo has made several trips to Chicago since her son’s death, including visits to publicize a $12,000 reward for information about the shooting in the weeks after her son’s death. But police only caught a break in the case when the gun used in the shooting was recovered during an arrest in South Holland. The man caught with the gun said he’d bought it from a friend of Speed, and the friend said the gun had come from Speed. Police said Speed admitted giving the gun to his friend to sell, but denied firing the weapon the night Shane Colombo was shot.

Toyna Colombo thanked police for their dogged investigation into her son’s fatal shooting.

“This person is, at least, facing justice,” she said.