54th and Ellis shooting

Two representatives of the non-profit Chicago Against Violence watch police activity at the site of a homicide that took place on 54th Place just east of S. Ellis Ave. on Tuesday, Nov. 9. 

A 24-year-old recent University of Chicago graduate was killed on the afternoon of Tuesday, Nov. 9, in an attempted robbery.

The Chicago Police Department reports that at approximately 1:54 p.m., the victim was on the sidewalk when a dark-colored vehicle pulled up.

A man exited the vehicle, produced a firearm and demanded his property. The offender then shot him in the chest before reentering the vehicle and fleeing westbound on 54th Place.

The victim, who has not been identified, was transported to the University of Chicago Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. Police detectives are investigating.

In a statement, U. of C. Associate Vice President for Safety and Security Eric Heath confirmed the victim’s university connection and said the school’s police department is increasing patrols near campus.

“We are working with the Chicago Police Department to gather more facts about the case,” he said. “While we have not had any indication that this is an active incident, we encourage you to be vigilant and exercise caution.”

A university student walking to her home on Ellis was outside of the Gerald Ratner Athletics Center, 5530 S. Ellis Ave., when she heard the gunshot.

"Everybody else just kind of kept walking, so I thought maybe I imagined it. Then I started getting all these texts saying there were shots fired on this street corner. And I was like 'OK, that's crazy,'" said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous.

"It's just incredibly unsettling to have someone murdered, potentially a member of your community, literally in your alley," she said.

An area man who walks to his job every workday along 54th Place was shocked at the news.

"It's getting too close to home," said the man, who asked for anonymity. "I was always thinking when I'm walking here, at like 5:30 in the morning — I'm kind of a big guy, but I'm still a target."

He expressed dissatisfaction with Mayor Lori Lightfoot's handling of crime, but was unsure of what public safety policies he wanted instead.

Chelsea Colon, a graduate student, recalled the murders of doorwoman Aisha Nevels and university student Yiran Fan on Jan. 9 in Kenwood, part of a spree of murders that day across Chicago and Evanston that left two more people dead.

"The school's response is more police activity around Hyde Park," she said as a helicopter buzzed overhead. "But even though you see cop cars sitting or driving around, it really doesn't feel like they're making much of a difference. Or maybe there's not enough units, but obviously nothing much is changing, according to what the university is trying to do, if this continues to happen."

"It's atrocious that we can't even feel safe walking around our own neighborhood," Colon said. "And this facade of 'more police force, really doing anything to make much more of a difference' just feels like a fallacy."

"If the idea that more police is supposed to create more safety, and that doesn't even work, then what else is there to do, feasibly?"

Luis Pimentel, an undergraduate, said some of his college friends have stopped going out past certain hours for fear of crime. He, however, is from Cicero, near Roosevelt Road, and said he feels safe in Hyde Park.

"There's been similar gun violence back home," he said. "It's more normalized for me."

Pimentel understands where people from a suburban background are coming from. "Understanding that it's a factor that you have to live with is very shocking for some people," he said.

On the evening of Nov. 9, Alds. Sophia King (4th) and Leslie Hairston (5th) were to meet with Police Superintendent David Brown alongside university representatives to discuss the day's tumult.

"This is ridiculous, the brazenness of the acts," Hairston said. "It's deeper than just the shooting. The immediate reaction is the shooting and the safety of all people, but then it goes to everything that we're talking about."

Hairston noted factors beyond people's control, like mental health, but she also referenced individual responsibility: "It is not OK to run around the neighborhood and shoot at people. You've got to find a way to deal with the callous disregard of human life and safety."

After no murders in 2019 or 2020, 2021 has been a tragically violent year in Hyde Park-Kenwood.

In addition to Fan and Nevels, Keith Cooper was murdered in a botched carjacking attempt on July 14; he was 73. Jamol Romel Binion, 25, was killed in a drive-by shooting on Aug. 14. Fifteen-year-old Chatham high school student Kentrell McNeal was murdered inside a vehicle in which a 14-year-old was also shot on Sept. 21.

(1) comment


"But even though you see cop cars sitting or driving around, it really doesn't feel like they're making much of a difference." - Agree. They need to have stricter enforcement of the law. Too often sending the wrong message that people can get away with small things (how about stopping for people in crosswalks?) and it makes folks think they can push the envelope by getting away with more and more. Needs to stop. The message should be: If you come to HP and break a law, you will get a citation.

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