Family remembers woman fatally shot outside Starbucks last year

An ABC 7 Eyewitness News Exclusive
CHICAGO (WLS) -- We're hearing for the first time from a family of a Chicago woman who was gunned down during an afternoon run to Starbucks.

What happened to Yvonne Nelson could happen to any of us. She was at the right place, just at the wrong time.

Her family and friends told ABC 7's Terrell Brown how they're carrying on Yvonne's memory while helping fight gun violence in the city and finding forgiveness for the suspected gunman.

Tonya, Dionne and Juanita never imagined they'd be visiting their oldest sister in a cemetery.

It was a day just like this one, a year ago, that changed their lives forever.

Yvonne Nelson was on one of her normal trips to Starbucks and picked up her favorite chai tea.

As she walked back to her car gang violence broke out in the streets and Yvonne was caught right in the middle.

She was shot in the chest and killed.

"It's fresh as if it happened today, it's still that fresh," said LaTonya Jarrett, Yvonne's sister.

About a month after this family tragedy, police made an arrest. They arrested a teenager, just 15 years old.

Terrell Brown: "The shooter, can you forgive him?"
LaTonya Jarrett: "Yes, I can forgive him, I can't help but to forgive him in order to be free. With my faith in God, I have to learn to forgive, I will not forget it, but I do forgive him. I actually pray for him."

There's been a lot of time spent healing in the past year too.

Carrying out some of Yvonne's dreams has helped, like visiting Paris. It was a trip she planned to take this year for her 50th birthday.

"She was the life of the party," said her sister Dionne Nelson. "Yvonne loved her family more than anything else."

Family that included her dog, Max, who is now with Yvonne's partner of more than 10 years.

"When I see him, I see Yvonne," said her partner Bernard Hughes. "She did not look at Max like a dog, she looked at Max like it's her son. You couldn't say anything wrong to Max, you couldn't do nothing to Max. Max was everything."

At Chicago's 311 center where Yvonne worked for more than a decade, her desk is still untouched. The walls now covered with memorials and her co-workers wear orange, Yvonne's favorite color.

"Not only was she a coworker, but a good friend to everybody and some of us a sister," said Jemelah Scott, a former co-worker.

"Every morning we come in and say, 'Good morning, Yvonne' because she is still here in spirit," said Brenda Ward, another former co-worker.

And Yvonne's family wants that spirit to live on.

"I think the most important thing to her was helping people and in her death I think we're going to continue her legacy with the YAN Foundation," said her sister Dionne Nelson.

"We plan to give out scholarships to those students who are really trying to turn their lives around and go to college. Anything we can do to make this world a better place and to help with the fight with gun violence," said her sister LaTonya Jarrett.

Terrell Brown: "A year has passed, have you been able to find joy again?"

LaTonya Jarrett: "It was extremely difficult... but I reminded myself to the fact that the joy does not come from the world, the world didn't give it to me the world can't take it away. God has done a wonderful job of reminding me of the memories that we had and she's still with me."

On Saturday, Yvonne's family will host its first walk to raise awareness about the dangers of gun violence and its consequences. The walk kicks off at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning in Jackson Park.

For more information on the YAN Foundation visit null
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