Marcel Pearson, 17, shot 2 days before college orientation

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Marcel Pearson, 17, was shot while walking in a park with friends two days before his college orientation. (WLS)

Marcel Pearson, 17, was gunned down just two days before his college orientation while walking with friends in the city's Brainerd neighborhood, officials said.

Pearson was shot in Robichaux Park near 93rd and South Eggleston Tuesday night, police said.

Family members said he was looking forward to his freshman year at Western Illinois University. Still in shock, friends came together in their grief around the spot where he died.

"Unfortunately, we live in an environment where people can't live out their dreams because their lives are cut short," said Jillian Carew, a school advisor.

Pearson was about to become the first person in his family to go to college. Carew was going to drive him to Western Illinois University for orientation Thursday.

"He was already registered, already enrolled, but just going to orientation and getting his dorm assignments and all that," Carew said. "He was very excited and looking forward to it."

A recent graduate of Englewood's Johnson College Prep, Pearson spent his last two years as captain of the high school's basketball team.

Coach Stephen Gilbert said Pearson was supposed to be one of their success stories.

"He scored buckets and bunches. Leader. Never late for practice, early, leave late," Gilbert said. "He's just a great kid. Still in shock."

Grief counselors were on hand at the school campus Wednesday. Pearson was as popular off the court as he was on it.

"We're just cracking jokes of the fun times we had on the buses and at practice," Gilbert said. "Although he was pretty cool he was a bit of a jokester. Reminiscing about the old times."

And while police believe the shooting was gang-related, neighbors say Pearson was simply a victim of his environment and a neighborhood gone bad.

"He used to come over to my house. I had a swimming pool. Swim, I'd make BBQ, hamburgers and everything," said Harry Smith, Pearson's neighbor. "All these kids around here at one time or another have been at my house."
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Chicago - Brainerd
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