Our Pledge To You


John Fountain: A Song for Laquan

This is the home of Emmett Louis Till. Land where Richard J. Daley once ordered police to “shoot to kill.”Home of Capone and the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Where the feds one summer Sunday night lit up John Dillinger. A bullet in the neck was the shot they said that killed him. America’s most notorious. But only four shots hit him.For Laquan, it was 16 shots by only one cop that filled him. In a bloody pool one autumn night on Pulaski Road, Officer Van Dyke drilled him.

A three-inch pocketknife was why they said he feared him. Video shows Laquan wasn’t really near him.

I have tears for Tyshawn. But this song is for Laquan…


This is the place where Public Enemy No. 1 no longer has a name. Where the color of our skin makes all black males the same: The usual statistic in the shooter’s glaring aim.

Black-on-black, or rogue white police. They both aim the same. This is the history of my city’s shame. At the heart of my pain.

A ward of the state. Murdered by the state. Covered up by the state.

Living in a state of hate.

On a cool Chicago night in the middle of the street: Laquan took 16 rounds of heat. His blood ran warm and red on the ground. But no mercy for a black boy could be found.

I wonder: “Did you cry, as you ascended to the sky?” At 17, you weren’t supposed to die.

Now this whole damn city should have to answer why.

City of segregation. Police intimidation. Economic suffocation. Black male extermination. Northern Star of the Great Migration. Still a dream deferred by isolation.

Dried up, like a raisin in the sun. Where young black men are prone to lynching — mostly by gun. Some by police. But mostly by our own black sons. Still, I can never forget: Fred Hampton and Mark Clark executed by police while they slept.

“Emanuel” is supposed to mean “God with us.” But there’s no god at City Hall. Only Rahm with us. Waging a public campaign over a movie’s name-Chi-raq. All the while hiding 16 Shots — the facts.

Thirteen months to file charges in the case. Politics as usual: Justice can wait. Politicking preachers and milquetoast leaders. Wasn’t it the aldermen who approved the 5 million?

Hush money? Blood money? One in the same? Now the wringing of hands and casting blame. Everybody nowadays is shouting Laquan’s name. But is it about him? Or about what they can gain?

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

There’s plenty of shame and blame to go around. For everyone who ever let Laquan down.

Who sought to save him from foster care’s revolving door? Who put their loving arms around him when he couldn’t cry no more?

Who aborted him in life? Did he ever have a chance — before that fatal moment when with death he danced? Spun by the first shots from copper-jacket rounds. That violently spun him and hurled him to the ground.

Then the sound of thunder, as round after round penetrated. Excavated. Punctuated. Every pain. Every hurt ever inflicted. Every abuse ever ingested, in his short life. Sixteen shots for 17 years of strife.

Who comforted him as he lay dying in the street, after his executioner pumped him with bullets nearly head to feet? Did anyone hold his hand as he spent his last breath? As he curled up like a baby and up crept death?

…At 17, you weren’t supposed to die. Now this whole damn city should have to answer why.

Email: Author@johnwfountain.com

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