2 teens killed in 2 days

June 18, 2008 3:30:44 PM PDT
Two Chicago teenagers, both victims of gunfire, were killed in two days. The most recent incident occurred on Tuesday on the Southwest side when a 15-year-old was murdered. On Wednesday, loved ones of both victims called for action.

Leaders in Chicago communities are searching for more options to help keep children off the streets.

Police are investigating the two shootings that left two Chicago Public School students dead just days into their summer breaks. While investigators are looking into those shootings, some activists say that more has to be done to keep them out of harm's way.

"They said he probably wouldn't make it. And I found out just yesterday morning that he didn't make it," said Michael Johnson, referring to his friend, Ulysses Simmons who was killed Monday. Teddy bears mark the spot where Simmons, who had just graduated from the eighth grade, collapsed after being shot. Johnson survived a gunshot to his shoulder. "I looked at my shoulder and I felt the blood coming down," said Johnson.

A little more than 24 hours after Simmons was killed, another Chicago Public School student was shot to death in an unrelated case. Fifteen-year-old Juan Hernandez died at Stroger hospital on Tuesday night after he was shot near his Back of the Yards home. His friends, who left tributes at a growing memorial to Hernandez, reacted to police reports that his shooting was gang related.

"He was not really involved in one. He was just a good kid, hanging around the wrong people," said Reyna Ortiz.

Police say Hernandez was walking down West 49th Street when a gunman riding a bicycle rode by and started shooting at him.

Hernandez attended Hedges Elementary School. On Wednesday, crisis counselors were on hand to help students deal with the tragedy. The youth is the 25th Chicago Public School student to die from gun violence since September.

"A lot of these young men come from broken homes and dysfunctional communities," said Tio Hardiman, director of CeaseFire, a community organization with a focus on reducing violence, particularly shootings.

Hardiman says more kids hang out at home during the summer break and are a target for gangs who try to recruit younger and younger members. Hardiman says it's crucial for community leaders to step forward and present a positive alternative to gangs.

"A lot of times people have lost control of their teenagers and we have to try to find a way to get the control back and lot of young men to dialogue and process in a positive environment. It's going to have to start on each block here in Chicago," said Hardiman.

In both shootings, the gunmen are still on the loose. On Thursday at 11 a.m. in Daley Plaza, Fr. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Parish will lead a rally to call on legislators to pass common sense gun laws.


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