Stray bullets leave loved ones, communities grappling with gun violence
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On his first day in Chicago, Shane Colombo was waiting at a bus stop in Rogers Park after shopping for clothes hangers. Last year, Tony Goodrich Sr. was chatting with neighbors outside his mother’s house. And two years ago, Aaren O’Connor was sitting in her car outside her Pilsen apartment.
Their families never imagined such ordinary settings could put their loved ones in danger. But in each case, a stray bullet cut a promising life tragically short.
None of those three were believed to be the intended targets, Chicago police said. Instead, they likely were caught in the crossfire of nearby gang violence.
That doesn’t make the loss sting any less. Colombo, an incoming graduate student at Northwestern University, was shot to death on Sept. 2 while walking down the 7600 block of North Clark Street. He was about to marry his fiancee after they’d been apart for two years.
Colombo survived lymphoma in high school and was always an “alert” person, said Chelsea West, his brother’s ex-wife. But West, 27, of Denver, said no level of quick thinking could prepare Colombo — or his family — for the hail of gunfire that surrounded him.
“We watched him fight through lymphoma and win, and this feels that much more unfair,” said West, who remains close to the family.
Ald. Joe Moore (49th), whose ward includes Rogers Park, said the area generally is getting safer, and “this horrible incident is not an everyday occurrence in the vast majority of neighborhoods in Chicago.”
Colombo’s death was this year’s first documented gun homicide in Rogers Park, one of Chicago’s most diverse communities. Residents from more than 80 countries have huddled in the lakeside neighborhood. Serene beaches dot the area. Loyola University sits on its southernmost tip.
Nonetheless, Moore said a toxic combination of poverty, social isolation and easy access to guns still exists.
“Disputes that used to be resolved with fists — or, in worst case, knives — are far too often resolved with guns,” Moore said. “And when you try to resolve disputes with guns, far too often innocent bystanders are shot.”
Colombo’s death is similar to that of Cynthia Trevillion, 64, who also was killed by stray gunfire in October 2017. Trevillion, a schoolteacher, was caught in the crossfire while walking in the 6900 block of North Glenwood, when someone in a dark-colored SUV opened fire on two juveniles standing on the street near the Morse Red Line CTA station, authorities said at that time.
Her husband, John, who couldn’t be reached for comment for this story, discussed her death with The Guardian in a story published in March.
Police were searching for three suspects wanted in connection to Colombo’s shooting. Two days after the shooting, they released surveillance photos of three males running through a Bank of America parking lot. Anyone with information about the suspects was asked to call Area North detectives at (312) 747-8380.
The family of Goodrich, a 44-year-old man who was shot to death Sept. 26, 2017 in the West Pullman neighborhood on the Far South Side, is still searching for his killer. They now have a $5,000 reward for tips on the person who was aiming at a group of people outside on a porch — but fatally struck Goodrich, a husband and father, instead.
“I believe that the people they were shooting at know who was shooting at them,” said his wife Arkyta Goodrich. “One of them needs to come forward.”
The senseless acts of violence tear at the fabric of a neighborhood, said clinical psychologist and Loyola University criminology professor Arthur Lurigio. Residents feel as if they are losing control of their community, which creates a sense of disorder and fear.
“When innocent bystanders are shot, I think it traumatizes the community,” Lurigio said. “You believe you are not safe on your street or on your porch. Particularly when you’re hit by a stray bullet in your home, it really shatters your illusions of invulnerability.”
The killers of Aaren O’Connor, the woman shot in Pilsen two years ago, haven’t been brought to justice yet, either. A stray bullet struck the back of the 25-year-old’s head on Feb. 5, 2016, in the 2000 block of West 21st Street.
Pilsen, like Rogers Park, has only had one gun homicide reported this year. (Non-fatal shootings in the city are not as well-documented.)
Her father, David O’Connor, said the news about Colombo left him “beyond outraged” but not surprised.
“It will take a miracle” to fix Chicago’s epidemic of shootings, he believes.
“This has been going on for 20, 30 years and has been evolving,” he said. The teens and young adults caught up in the cycle of violence need additional funding for education and jobs programs to get them off the streets, he said, but he doesn’t think that will happen anytime soon.
“I haven’t seen anyone with that kind of leadership,” O’Connor said. “I don’t have a lot of hope.”
Contributing: Matthew Hendrickson, Adam Thorp
A previous version of this story stated one gun homicide was reported in Pilsen last year. There has been one gun homicide reported in Pilsen this year, not in 2017.