Close-to-home murders another element of Chicago’s violent year
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When Javon Wilson, the 15-year-old grandson of U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, was shot to death in his Englewood home Friday evening, he became homicide victim No. 701 in Chicago this year.
But Wilson also falls into another statistical category that helps explain why everyone from police officers to community activists are struggling to curb the city’s cycle of violence.
The teen became the 138th Chicago resident murdered on the same block he lived on, and one of 381 people killed from injuries they suffered within 2 miles of their home address, according to a Chicago Sun-Times analysis of Cook County medical examiner’s and Chicago Police Department records.
Chicago’s spike in violence — murders are up 54 percent compared to the same time last year, and nonfatal shootings are up 49 percent — has occurred predominantly in low-income neighborhoods on the West Side and the South Side, including Englewood, where Wilson lived.
The fact that one out of every five homicide victims were fatally wounded inside or within steps of their homes — and more than half lived within 2 miles of where they were mortally wounded — is one of many ingredients contributing to the city’s bloody year, experts say.
The close-to-home killings have a desensitizing effect on young people who grow up seeing violence as the norm, said Richard Rosenfeld, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
In Wilson’s case, police say the murder was spurred by a teen dispute over a pair of gym shoes. A 16-year-old boy and 17-year-old girl have been charged.
“They don’t become numb to it, but they become indifferent to it,” Rosenfeld said. “They can become deeply traumatized.”
Andrew Holmes, a community activist who frequents homicide scenes across the city, said a neighbor’s killing so close to home raises several questions in the minds of other residents.
“You often wonder, ‘Could that have been you?’ or ‘Are you next or is your neighbor next?’ ” Holmes said. “Most importantly, you wonder, does the killer stay right behind you?”
That can lead to people becoming fearful of cooperating with police, who last year solved about one out of every four homicide cases — one of the worst case-clearance rates in the country, according to analyses by The Washington Post, Reuters and other media outlets. Chicago’s homicide-clearance rate might dip even lower this year, police statistics show.
While the majority of Chicago’s homicide victims were killed relatively close to home, the Sun-Times also found that 182 were killed between 2 and 10 miles from home — and that 38 city residents were killed more than 10 miles from where they lived.
Fifty-nine people murdered in Chicago this year were from nearby suburbs. Nine others were from outside of Illinois, with six having lived in northwest Indiana. The other three lived in Michigan, Texas and California.
The Sun-Times analysis was based on the most recent legal address on file with the medical examiner’s office; it’s possible the victim had moved elsewhere.
That wasn’t the case for 24-year-old Maurice Ross, who was fatally shot less than a block from where he lived in Roseland last July.
Ross, while working on finding a job, was back at the home he shared with his mother, Vanessa Ross, by 11:30 every night, she said.
“He just stayed in front of the house, moved around the neighborhood for a while, then came back,” Ross said.
About an hour before he was usually home, Ross was fatally shot in the head and back in an alley not far from his home in the 300 block of West 105th Street.
Sadly for Vanessa Ross, Maurice Ross wasn’t the first son she lost to gun violence within walking distance of her home.
Another son, Brandon Snype, was shot and killed less than two blocks away from her home eight years earlier. Snype was 26 when he was fatally shot in the 10500 block of South Wentworth, according to the medical examiner’s office.
No one was ever arrested in Snype’s murder. But there has been an arrest in the Maurice Ross case, and the accused is being held at the Cook County jail.
Vanessa Ross said she doesn’t know why anybody would want to kill her son, or whether the gunfire was intended for a man Maurice Ross was walking with. She insisted her son wasn’t involved in gang activity.
Records show Maurice Ross was arrested for armed robbery in 2010 and convicted in 2011. He was sentenced to time served in Cook County jail.
Since the deaths of both her sons, Vanessa Ross has tried to stay upbeat and busy. She said they were both good about helping her around the house, which she now balances with looking for a new job of her own while helping to care for a disabled brother.