Hundreds gather at vigil for fallen CPD Officer Aréanah Preston: ‘She was a Goliath of a person.’

At a gathering at the station where she was assigned, slain Officer Aréanah Preston was remembered as powerful, goal-directed and the kind of officer CPD needs.

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Photographs of Aréanah Preston in a cap and gown at her vigil. Preston was pursuing a master’s degree in criminology from Loyola University Chicago and would have graduated Saturday.

Photographs of Aréanah Preston in a cap and gown at her vigil. Preston was pursuing a master’s degree in criminology from Loyola University Chicago and would have graduated Saturday.

Emmanuel Camarillo/Sun-Times

Aréanah Preston was a firecracker.

That’s how family and friends remembered the slain Chicago police officer at a prayer vigil Tuesday, saying that though the 24-year-old wasn’t physically imposing, she was powerful.

“She would go toe to toe with me. I’m like, girl, I don’t care about that gun; I’m your momma,” said her mother, Dionne Mhoon.

Hundreds gathered for the vigil at the 5th District police station, 727 E. 111th St., where Preston was assigned. Photos of a beaming Preston dressed in a cap and gown sat at a small table adorned with flowers. Above one photo a message read: “Peace For Preston.”

Preston was on her way home after work early Saturday in the 8100 block of South Blackstone Avenue when robbers passed her, circled back and approached her.

She opened fire, setting off a gunfight. Preston was hit at least twice and also grazed by a bullet. ShotSpotter, the city’s gunshot detection system, picked up the barrage of gunfire, but an officer didn’t respond to the block for more than 30 minutes.

The officer then drove her to University of Chicago Medical Center, where Preston was pronounced dead.

On Sunday five suspects were taken into custody. A 20-year-old woman was arrested by a fugitive apprehension team, and four others were arrested after an hours-long standoff with police in the 7600 block of South Bishop Street. It wasn’t immediately clear if they were all involved in the shooting.

Charges were pending.

Mhoon said her daughter had goals, and she accomplished many of them.

She described herself as a stereotypical overprotective parent who wanted to know whenever their child left their home. “I wanted to know everything, I’m that type of parent. What time you going to be back? What’s the address?”

She recalled Preston’s rebellious moments when she was younger. “She got a full ride to Illinois State, and I said no you aren’t gonna go to Illinois State; you’re staying right here. Where did she go? Illinois State,” Mhoon said. “I told her, this is your last year of school, no apartment. What did Aréanah do? Go get an apartment.”

But Preston’s mother said she couldn’t find fault with her daughter’s choices because they all seemed to go well. “But it always worked out. I couldn’t say, ‘Dang, see how you messed up!’ because it always worked out.”

Preston was pursuing a master’s degree in criminology from Loyola University Chicago and would have graduated Saturday, according to a university spokesperson.

Top police department leaders, including interim CPD Supt. Eric Carter, and command officers representing districts from across the city delivered personal messages of condolence to the family.

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Colleagues from the Chicago Police Department and family members gathered outside the 5th District police station Tuesday to remember Aréanah Preston. Her mother said Preston had many goals and accomplished many of them.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Deputy Chief Senora Ben remembered a recent conversation she had with Preston and her group of close friends in the department.

“I always tell them, ‘Look, you have a desire to do this job, go out and be the best that you can be,’” Ben said to Preston’s family. “Aréanah was a beautiful soul, she took this job seriously. She was out there, making sure she was making a difference for the city of Chicago, the citizens of Chicago. So you can hold your head up high. She’s looking down on us, she’s smiling on us. Thank you for giving her to us for this little while.”

Tyrone Pendarvis, commander of the 5th District, told Preston’s family that she was exactly the kind of officer the department was looking for.

“She was intelligent, she could communicate, she was a Goliath of a person,” Pendarvis said. “Because that’s the type of officer we need.”

Hundreds of yellow, white and blue balloons were released to mark the end of the vigil.

Mhoon thanked those who attended for showing support for her family and accepting her daughter for who she was.

“I thank God for giving her to us,” Mhoon said.

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