Chicago shootings: 2 CPS students gunned down days before start of school year

'I lost my baby to these streets': Evelyn Willingham, Ashuntice's mother

ByChristian Piekos, Tre Ward, and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Monday, August 21, 2023
2 CPS students gunned down days before start of school
A Chicago shooting left a teen boy killed in the 8700 block of South Cregier Avenue on the South Side, the police department said.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It was supposed to be an exciting end of the summer for two Chicago Public Schools students.

In fact, one had his backpack ready in preparation to begin his high school career on Monday. But, that won't happen after one teen was shot to death in a West Side park, and the other was gunned down right down the street from his South Side home.

It's an agonizing reality for Athena Harshaw. Every single time she leaves her home, she'll have to see the very spot where her 14-year-old nephew, Rayjohn, was found by a neighbor beside her home on Saturday night.

"They took him from the world, because he was going to be somebody," Athena said. "He was only 14. He didn't even make 16. He didn't do 18. He didn't go to college. He didn't even get to walk in school."

Athena described the moment Rayjohn was found shot to death.

"Then, when I seen his shoes, I said, 'That's my nephew,'" Athena said. "I should've just kept him in the house. I'm so sorry! Oh, Jesus!"

Rayjohn was a top student who loved to play basketball.

"I taught him a lot of things, but I just couldn't teach him how to survive a gunshot, how to survive these streets. Like, we're not even street people," Athena said. "All he wanted to do was to go outside, and play basketball and go to school."

Police were then called to the home on South Cregier Avenue and East 87th Place, where, investigators said, the shooter got away.

Rayjohn's family said he was supposed to start his freshman year on Monday at Hyde Park High School.

"Like, this is crazy. He was 14. His book bag was packed for school. He was so excited to go to Hyde Park," Athena said.

Hours before that shooting, police said, two other teenagers were shot at a North Austin park. Ashuntice Wilburn, 17, was killed.

"When I look back over her life, she was just starting her life," said Patty Ringo, Ashuntice's grandmother.

In that brief life, Ashuntice volunteered with her grandmother in an anti-violence program at Greater St. John Bible Church, and was supposed to begin her senior year at Schurz High School on Monday.

"So, we were planning, you know, all kinds of activities, this year. She had a birthday coming up, October 31. We had made plans to go to Miami," Patty said.

Plans for both teens' futures are now left shattered as their families call for change through their heartache and tears.

"So, now his family, his 83-year-old grandmother have to come outside, and always remember him being on the ground, dead. Like, please stop! Please! Please just stop! Just stop it, please! God!" Athena said.

On Sunday night, both families held onto faith.

Ashuntice's friends and family gathered to remember the rising senior who aspired to be a dental hygienist.

"She was sweet. She wasn't made for these streets. I lost my baby to these streets, the same streets I survived as a teenager," said Evelyn Willingham, Ashuntice's mother. "Life is a gift. It's not something that can be taken for granted."

"You took my first. My heart. My love. My everything. Over what?" said Tashun Wilburn Ashuntice's father.

Grief counselors will be available at both victims' schools on Monday to help with anyone who might need them.

CPS provided a statement, saying, ""With great sadness, we are devastated to learn about the loss of these young people. The thoughts and condolences of the entire Chicago Public Schools (CPS) family are with all those impacted by these tragic deaths."

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