University of Chicago grad killed in Hyde Park shooting; activist nearly shot as patrols increase

Victim identified as Shaoxiong Zheng, who friends say went by Dennis

Thursday, November 11, 2021
U of C shooting victim ID'd; security increased around campus
A U Chicago shooting took the life of recent graduate Shaoxiong ZhengTuesday and another in Hyde Park almost hit activist Jahmal Cole.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The University of Chicago is increasing patrols near its Hyde Park campus after two shootings, one of which killed a 24-year-old recent graduate, took place within hours of each other Tuesday.

Chicago police said that shortly before 2 p.m. in the 900-block of East 54th Place, a dark-colored car pulled up alongside a 24-year-old man. A man got out of the car, pulled out a gun and demanded the 24-year-old's property.

It was not clear if the victim moved to give up his things, but the man opened fire, shooting the victim in the chest, police said. Then the shooter got back in the car and fled west on 54th Place.

The victim was taken to University of Chicago hospital, where he died. He was identified as Shaoxiong Zheng, who went by Dennis, according to his friends.

The University of Chicago released a statement Tuesday afternoon confirming the victim was a recent graduate of the college.

"This is devastating news for our entire community," the statement said in part.

The university said they are working with CPD for their investigation.

Nick Jackson is mourning the loss of his close friend.

"He had just gotten his driver's license; he was in a new relationship. He had the whole world in front of him, and this happened," Jackson said.

Jackson lived in the same apartment building as his friend near campus, and said residents there have grown close.

"We're a community here of individuals. We have no uncles or cousins. We were each other's support," he said.

"He used to always be in the kitchen cooking every time, I saw him," said another resident, who did not give their name. "Very sweet guy."

Friends of the victim are fed up with the violence that took their friend's life.

"He was the one who told us about the Citizen app, and how it tells you about the shootings around here, so it's ironic and said," said another friend, who did not want to be named.

Police have not released any further description of the shooter or the car he was in. No one is currently in custody. Area One detectives are investigating.

RELATED: Chicago shooting: 4-year-old boy shot inside parked car in South Chicago, police say

Crime is up in Hyde Park, and so are rents, and the combination of the two is making it harder and harder for small businesses to find a reason to stay.

About two hours earlier, someone fired shots from a Hyundai Sonata blocks away at 53rd Street and South Harper Avenue, according to a security alert from the University of Chicago.

No injuries were reported, but several vehicles and two businesses were damaged by gunfire, the alert said.

The Sonata had been reported stolen Monday, according to the alert.

Jahmal Cole, head of My Block My Hood My City and a candidate for Congress, said he was nearly struck during the 53rd Street shooting, which took place in a busy business district.

"I heard 30 shots within 10 seconds, just within walking distance of here," Cole said. "A lot of windows got shot out."

Cole said he was walking to lunch when he heard random gunshots whizzing by his ear and ran for his life.

"I want to be clear that, I am not sure if I was an intended target today or if it was a random shooting. This is how they get down nowadays. Regardless, this is unacceptable and the people of the First District deserve better," Cole said in a post on Facebook. "Today, I thought I was going to die because I saw blood coming from my neck, thinking I was shot, again. Fortunately, it was a scrape from diving under a car."

Cole said while he doesn't believe he was targeted Tuesday afternoon, he has been shot at in the past, in 2018 and in June of this year as well.

Kilwins, a popular Hyde Park ice cream shop, was damaged in the shooting.

The shop's owner and employees spoke Wednesday about their safety concerns in returning to work, and Cole returned to where he was shot at.

"We need the partner in federal government to step up. Somebody has to have a sense of urgency," he said. "You can't nonprofit your way out of this. We can't program our way out of these shootings," he said.

According to the city's Violence Reduction Dashboard, as of Nov. 8 shootings in the neighborhood have more than tripled compared to 2020, with 16 this year compared to five last year.

The same data shows that for violent crimes of all time, Hyde Park has had 196 so far this year, up from 155 in the same period in 2020.

Kilwins owner Jackie Jackson said the most recent violent crime, along with increasing rent and fewer customers, may force her to close the business she opened nearly 10 years ago.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.