CHICAGO (WLS) -- A 23-year-old man found shot to death Thursday night near the University of Chicago on the city's South Side was identified by his mother as a teacher who would have turned 24 on Monday.
Xavier Joy was shot several times around 10 p.m. in the parking lot of an apartment building in the 6200-block of South Ingleside in Chicago's Woodlawn neighborhood. Joy was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.
Joy's mother, Nykea Pippion-McGriff, is absolutely devastated. She said her son was walking home when he was shot - they live two blocks away.
"There are no words. There are absolutely no words for why someone would take my son's life," she said.
"He taught kids and loved children, and... it could have happened to anyone, I guess, but he really didn't deserve it," said Garbiele Sanchez, Joy's girlfriend.
Sanchez said she was on the phone with him moments before he was shot to death after parking his car just two blocks away from home. Joy told her he would call back when he was inside.
"I was going to say, 'Bye, I love you.' And I heard someone say, 'What else do you have?' And I figured it was someone he knew," she said.
His phone, his relatives said, had been stolen.
Pippion-McGriff said he had recently attended Morehouse College in Atlanta for a year, where he played football. She said he was a teacher and mentor to young children.
"He taught for CPS, Evanston public school and worked for city services. This is someone who gave back to their community," Pippion-McGriff said.
"He's always been a good boy. Always been smart. Always been caring," said Tytrea Baker, Joy's grandmother.
CPS said Joy worked as a special education classroom assistant for the 2014-15 school year and has not been employed since that time.
Sanchez said she and Joy often talked about Chicago's violence.
"I was always telling him to be careful. And he said we had to move eventually. We had to move. We couldn't live here for the rest of our lives. It was too much," she said.
Investigators have not said what led to the shooting. Joy's mother said it could have been a robbery. She said the sound of several shots woke her up and she immediately had a feeling that her son was not OK.
"He loved his family. He loved his mom. He loved his dad. He loved all his extended, he loved everybody. And for him to die like this for a phone, really? A phone! I want whoever it is - I forgive you and I pray God forgives you - but this was not necessary!" Baker said.
"Xavier and my son, Arthur, were - are - the light of my life. They're the reason why I exist. I will not stop until I find out what happened," Pippion-McGriff said. "We've got to come together as a community to figure out what can be done to help our youth."
She asked anyone with information on who killed her son to come forward. She said she won't be able to rest until that happens.
A vigil was held at 5 p.m., and was attended by community residents and activists as well as U.S. Congressman Bobby Rush, who all expressed outrage over the shooting.
Joy's father, Ra Joy, released this statement Friday:
"Words cannot express the devastating pain and loss we are all feeling right now. Our oldest son, Xavier Joy, was shot and killed last night in Chicago. Our family is heartbroken by this tragic and senseless shooting. Xavier was an incredibly creative, funny, and smart young man. We hope and pray for an end to the violence that has impacted our family and so many others in our city. Our entire family is grateful for all those who have extended their love and condolences during this very difficult time. We ask for privacy as we grieve and make funeral arrangements."
Ra Joy is the executive director of CHANGE Illinois, a non-partisan coalition which aims to lead systematic political and government reform. CHANGE stands for the Coalition for Honest and New Government Ethics.
Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, extended his condolences to Ra Joy and his family.
Jackson called Xavier Joy a "bright light" who lived a "short, meaningful life."
The 23-year-old graduated from one of Chicago's top high schools, Whitney Young. After his time at Morehouse, Jackson said he returned to the city to teach math and reading to under-served children.
Area Central detectives are handling the investigation. No one is in custody.
Teacher, 23, found shot to death in Woodlawn