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The [Friday] Papers

Here's raw video from AP from the scene of the Cornell Square Park shooting last night.


"The South Park Commission created Cornell Square in 1904 as part of a revolutionary neighborhood park system which improved the difficult living conditions in Chicago's congested tenement districts," according to the Chicago Park District.


Richard J. Daley Elementary School is on the northwest side of the park.


Mentions of Cornell Square Park in the papers over the years has been sparse.

From Curtis Lawrence in the Sun-Times, February 1998:

"The recent murders of two Back of the Yards teenagers, allegedly by a 12-year-old boy who wanted to impress gang members, hit hard at Cornell Square Park where Robert Owens, 15, and Delvon Harris, 14, spent much of their time.

"The park, at 50th and Wood, sits in the midst of several gang turfs in the Back of the Yards neighborhood.

As many spent the last week speculating about what was wrong with today's young people, the people at Cornell Square Park seemed to have a handle on how to steer them right.

Last week, physical instructor Darrell Elebye could be seen putting his arm around a young boy and sending him back out to a game of floor hockey, even though his team was losing. And as usual, he told his boys, many whom aspire to be professional basketball players, that all dreams require hard work.

But Elebye also spent much of his time trying to bring a sense of normalcy to the park as children confronted the loss of two friends. Elebye coached the basketball team that Robert played on.

"He was a good kid and a good athlete," Elebye said Wednesday while getting his players ready for a game.

One of Elebye's players, David Tucker, 13, said Robert was good and getting better. "He was up here every day," David said. "The last day I saw him was the day he passed away."

David lives in the Back of the Yards neighborhood where kids often keep tears to themselves. But Tuesday, at a memorial vigil for Robert, David couldn't hold back. "That's the night I really cried."

For many of the children, it wasn't the first time they had to confront the death of a classmate or friend.

"Killing is no stranger to them, but it has a major impact," Elebye said. "I think it's going to affect them for the rest of their lives."

Adults, too, are growing numb at the violence claiming the lives of kids with plenty of potential.

"I couldn't believe it had happened_especially with them," said Thomas Southern, the Cornell Square Park supervisor. "They were two kids waiting for tomorrow. But then reality sinks in and says tomorrow is not promised to anyone."

Even though the park is surrounded by drugs, Southern and Elebye try to keep it safe from outside forces. And they also work with parents to keep the children away from the temptation of gangs.

So far, David is one of their successes. While he's at the age that attracts gang recruiters, David said he's not worried.

"Nobody ever tried to get me into a gang because my mother knows everybody around here, and she'll go off," he said.

Elebye wasn't surprised at reports that a 12-year-old trying to impress a gang was accused of the murder.

"Kids know how to do gang handshakes as soon as they play on the playground," he said.

Even though their neighborhood often is described as rough and tough, David and his friends still had compassion for the 12-year-old accused of killing Robert and Delvon.

They said the accused boy should serve time if convicted of the murders, but none thought he should be tried as an adult.

"That's too hard," David said.

The story's headline: "Park Is Anything But A Playground."


A letter to the paper eight days later from Paul J. Lopez, community relations officer at Park Federal Savings Bank:

"Recently the Back of the Yards neighborhood was in the news headlines because of a tragic shooting that occurred at 50th and Paulina. I want people to know that there are a lot of positive activities happening in the neighborhood and not just senseless violence.

"I grew up in the 1970s, a block away from the shooting scene. Our neighborhood was a great place to live and raise children. We were a true community, where you knew almost all of your neighbors and you and your friends could go to Cornell Square Park all day and have fun. Society has changed for the worse since then, not only in the Back of the Yards neighborhood but in many neighborhoods.

The majority of residents in the Back of the Yards are decent, hard-working people who only want to make a good living and have a safe place to raise their children. It is the gangs that cause all the trouble.

However, there are people who have been working together to make the necessary changes to improve their quality of life.

For example, a new school opened a few years ago called the San Miguel School. The school was started by two secular Franciscans and a Christian brother. They had very little money, but they had enormous faith, hope, and most of all, unconditional love in their hearts for children.

They took in children that the local schools could not handle. They set up a very tough curriculum and showered the students with a lot of love and attention. They have expanded since then, and this year they will have their first graduating class.

Another example is the Rev. Bruce Wellems. He has dedicated himself not only to Holy Cross-Immaculate Heart of Mary parish, but especially to the youth of the entire neighborhood. He is a guiding light for many of the troubled youth in this area.

The Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council and its executive director, Patrick J. Salmon, have built one of the most successful industrial parks in the nation, which employs many neighborhood residents.

The council also started a Ballet Folklorico four years ago due to the efforts of a great man, Jesus Rey. Jesus wanted to start a dance group to give the youth of the area an alternative to the gangs and give them a positive cultural influence in their lives. Unfortunately, Jesus passed away recently, but due to the dedication of his wonderful wife, Marina Rey, the ballet is now stronger than ever.

The Back of the Yards Business Association, under its executive director, Mark Roschen, has organized the local retail merchants and provides many services, including a free senior citizen shuttle bus, daily street cleaning and a security patrol.

These are just a few examples of the many positive happenings in the area. Unfortunately, the media mainly focus on the negative and tragic happenings around the city. The many dedicated people of the Back of the Yards neighborhood will continue to work hard to improve the quality of life for all who live there.

It would be interesting to go back and interview those same people now.


From Annie Sweeney in the Sun-Times, April 2009:

"Slumped in the front of a car and suffering from a gunshot wound, 14-year-old Juan Cazares struggled to even make a sound.

"Desperate to keep Juan from slipping away as they drove to the hospital, his 17-year-old cousin reached around from the back seat, massaging Juan's face and rubbing his neck.

"But his face was cold. And his neck was hard.

"I was just trying to wake him up,'' the tearful cousin said in a low voice. "He was dying. . . . He really couldn't breathe. He was just asking for God not to let him die.''

Juan, though, died early Friday morning at Stroger Hospital.

He was shot Thursday evening near 50th and Wood in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, an area that has daily struggles with gangs but also a deep commitment to challenging the violence.

"A tragedy like this takes a little piece of the soul out of you,'' said the Rev. Bruce Wellems, pastor of Holy Cross-Immaculate Heart of Mary parish, a few blocks from the shooting. "But it also strengthens the resolve to continue to do the good works we do.''

Chicago Police are investigating several accounts of what led to the shooting about 6:30 p.m.

According to one report, Juan and his 14-year-old cousin were chasing a basketball that had rolled out of Cornell Square Park when two men shot at them.

But Juan's cousins, interviewed Friday, said he was standing with them and other teens after finishing the basketball game when the men walked out of an alley.

"Where's the weed at?'' one man called, according to Juan's cousins.

The question -- which the cousins say was just an attempt to get their attention -- was followed by gunfire from the other man.

Juan ran six houses away, then called out that he had been shot. He leaned on a car, stumbled and fell to the ground, the cousins said.

Juan, a student at Richard Milburn Alternative High School, was the 33rd Chicago Public Schools student killed this school year. He was well-liked and known for his sense of humor, school officials said.

Juan had two younger sisters and a younger brother. He lived in the 5200 block of South Wood with his mom and some of his cousins.

"He's well-loved,'' said his aunt Lucy Gallegos, 30. "If it happened to him, it could happen to any of them.''

Headline: "He Was Asking God Not To Let Him Die."


From Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah in the Tribune, April 2009:

"When Juan Cazares, 14, played basketball at Cornell Square Park in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, he would sometimes be joined by others who were in gangs, family members said.

"Hanging out with the wrong people and being at the wrong place at the wrong time may have led to the 8th grader's death, family members believe.

"Cazares of the 5200 block of South Wood Street was shot in the chest right outside the park at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. He died early Friday at Stroger Hospital. His cousin, who had been playing basketball with him, was treated at the hospital for a graze wound on the hip.

"Police said the boys went to retrieve a basketball that had rolled away from the park toward an alley when two men in their 20s approached them and began shooting. Police have no one in custody.

"A witness said Cazares had been playing basketball with family and friends at the park near 51st and Wood Streets. The group had included a 20-year-old man who belonged to a gang, the witness said. A man approached them across the street from the park and asked them whether they had any drugs. When the basketball players said they did not, the man made an offensive gesture and walked back toward an alley.

"The basketball then bounced into the street, the witness said. As players ran after it, another man came out of the same alley and began shooting at them, according to the witness."

Click through for the rest.


Back to present day, the Trib has a strong collection of tweets and other forms of reaction to last night.


Some of us following the events through Twitter last night used @CFDMedia as one of our sources. It was like slow-motion heartbreak.






"Mayor Rahm Emanuel canceled meetings in Washington, D.C. and was on his way back to Chicago after 13 people, including a 3-year-old boy, were shot in Back of the Yards Thursday night, at shooting that Chicago's top cop said was done with an 'assault-style rifle,'" DNAinfo Chicago reports.

"All of the injuries are non-life-threatening," Supt. Garry McCarthy said in a Friday morning news conference. "It's a miracle in this instance that there were no fatalities."


Besides meetings in Washington, Rahm was scheduled to appear at a campaign rally for Jersey City mayor Cory Booker, who is running for U.S. Senate.

From the Newark Star-Ledger:

"Rahm Emanuel is well-known to Democrats around the country and by now, Steven Fulop is well-known to Democrats around the state.

"So when the mayor of Chicago and the mayor of Jersey City appear together Friday to stump for Cory Booker, their collective firepower should be enough to rally Booker's supporters.

"It will have to be, because Booker won't be there.

"The Newark mayor and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate will be at the Temple Night Club in San Francisco at a fundraiser held by the San Francisco Young Professionals for Cory Booker."


The rally has been canceled.


The Beachwood Tip Line: Trying to rally.


Posted on September 20, 2013

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