Man with disabilities wounded in Back of the Yards shooting could lose sight, taste

Jesus Rega, 21, was shot while waiting with his father and younger brother for a bus to school

ByMaher Kawash WLS logo
Friday, January 20, 2023
Man with disabilities shot on South Side could lose sight, taste
Jesus Rega, 21, was critically hurt when dozens of shots were fired as he waited for a bus in Back of the Yards.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago police are looking for suspects after a 21-year-old man with developmental disabilities was shot on Chicago's Southwest Side Wednesday morning while waiting for a bus.

Jesus Rega, 21, was shot three times, including once in the head, by a trio of armed men in the 4700-block of South Wolcott Avenue around 6:30 a.m.

Rega is supposed to be just months away from graduating high school. That's where he and his brother were going for the day.

Investigators said the gunfire erupted as the victim - who is nonverbal - stood outside his family's home with his dad and younger brother waiting for his school bus.

"There was no car; they were just walking, pointing a finger at me, thinking I was Two Six," said his father, Philip Rega Jr.

WATCH | Chicago police give update on Back of the Yards shooting

Chicago police give an update on the 21-year-old man with special needs who was shot multiple times in Back of the Yards Wednesday morning.

"We were out here waiting for the bus. Apparently three assailants came from that corner over there," Rega said.

As those three men got close to the dad and his sons, repeatedly asking if they were in a gang, Rega said he got quietly protective.

"All I did was grab my phone out of my pocket and call 911. And that's when they started shooting," he said.

Chicago police said ShotSpotter technology in the area noted 39 rounds were fired during the attack.

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There were too many shots for Rega to cover both of his sons - both of whom live with disabilities.

"I was trying to tell him to get down, but he didn't understand at the time," Rega said. "I tried to get to him as fast as I could. As soon as they stopped shooting, I ran to him and started holding the wound."

"These offenders likely thought that the victims were rival gang members," CPD Cmdr. Don Jerome said. "It is important to note that none of the family involved - the father, nor the 15-year-old, nor the 21-year-old victim - have any gang affiliation whatsoever."

Police said the victim was shot three times, once in the head, and was rushed to an area hospital in critical condition. The attackers ran north from the scene.

"He just got shot. I put my (other) son on the ground, I ducked, before I knew it, he got shot and fell to the ground. I couldn't do nothing about it. And, as soon as he fell down, they started running off," Rega said.

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So far, Rega has undergone surgery at Stroger Hospital to remove bone fragments from his skull. He's on oxygen right now to help him breathe and doctors said he has a 50/50 chance he might lose his sight and taste after a bullet broke his nose.

He also faces the possibility of more surgeries.

The Southwest Side neighborhood has been plagued by rising gun violence. The victim's father and neighborhood leaders are calling on the community to put an end to this violence.

"This violence has got to stop. I've been saying this for years over here," Rega said. "I've been living here all my life and in this location I've been here 15 years and nothing like this ever happened to me."

"As a parent with a kid with disabilities, it hurts me," said Oscar Contreras, a program manager for the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council. "And I think some of these other parents should really think about it, because if it happens to you, then what happens?"

Contreras said he's seeing younger and younger children getting involved with the gangs that are terrorizing neighborhoods. He's calling on parents to step up and get involved, and for the community to engage with police.

"This is not OK. We have to understand, especially in the Hispanic community, we tend to not want to get involved. I saw it yesterday. I don't wanna get involved, 'no quiero decir nada,'" Contreras said. "I don't want to say nothing. I don't want to be a part of it. But yet, most of the people know. Most people know who is a problem child, most people know that, hey, my son is a gang member. But I'm in denial. There's no relationship between police and the community. We're trying to build that."

CPD data show that in 2022, there were 93 shootings and homicides in the New City Community Area, which includes Back of the Yards.

In 2021, it was about the same.

But that's a 66% increase from 2019, when there were 56 shootings and homicides, and a 35% increase from 2018, when there were 69.

The alderman who represents the ward said constant gang warfare is terrorizing innocent residents, like Jesus Rega.

Alderman Ray Lopez, whose 15th Ward includes the block where the attack happened, said gang violence cannot and will not be tolerated.

"This young man deserves better; his family deserves better," Lopez said. "While we pray for his quick recovery, I'm asking residents to step forward either to the police or my office with any information so we can get justice for him."

Lopez said this is the fourth shooting in the area in the last week.

Police continue to investigate. So far, no one is in custody.