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A Neighborhood Grieves

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A Neighborhood Grieves

Christopher RodrÃguez, 18, set up a memorial for Daniel Piña

The family of Daniel Piña is gathering for his wake on Chicago’s West Side this evening. Police suspect it was gang members who gunned down the 17-year-old over the weekend. The sorrow over Piña’s death extends far beyond his family. As part of our summer series examining youth violence, Chicago Public Radio’s Chip Mitchell reports from our Humboldt Park bureau.


Eight candles, a wooden cross, and a prayer card mark a curb near West Hirsch and North Hamlin where Daniel Piña fell Friday evening.
Ambi (song): “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound...”

A 28-year-old preschool teacher named Tequila Halliburton has stopped by with a song. She didn’t know him well, but lives around the corner.

HALLIBURTON: “I feel terrible about it. It’s kids out here. They can’t even play anymore. Not only here, it’s everywhere you go.”

The memorial is the work of 18-year-old Christopher Rodríguez, who was just upstairs during the shooting. Rodríguez says he and Piña shared many things as best friends. They both had family members in the street gang that claims this neighborhood. And he says they both lost brothers in a car accident nearby after members of a rival gang opened fire. Now he can’t believe Daniel has joined them.

RODRIGUEZ: “I cannot think to Danny’s dying. I think he’s at home right now.”

In Rodríguez’s doorway, a stout young man sits down to chat. He had a barber buzz his hair over the weekend and shave in two messages. Above one ear, it says “RIP, Danny.” Above the other, “LKK.”

GANG MEMBER: “It means ‘Latin King Killer.’ But this should not reflect on his death because he didn’t have anything to do with us, with our organization.”

And what’s that?

GANG MEMBER: “We are Maniac Latin Disciples in this area.”

And the MLDs and the Latin Kings have been warring for a long time?

GANG MEMBER: “Yeah, many years -- for life.”

Where did the conflict come from?

GANG MEMBER: “I don’t know. I don’t know and I can’t talk about it either -- code of silence.”

What would it take to resolve the conflict?

GANG MEMBER: “There is no way it could be resolved, but the authorities have a lot that they could do. A camera should be put up in this area. I’m 30 years old and I got kids of my own, and now I’ve started thinking about some safety for them too.”

He’s not the only one thinking about safety.

Ambi: “Music Box Dancer” (song) “The vanilla? The vanilla ice cream bar?...”

A 42-year-old ice-cream vender asked us to use just her first name, María. She’d rather not drive her truck through this neighborhood so soon after the shooting, but says she has no choice.

MARIA: “Everybody is staying inside the house. Before everybody was playing outside and they stopped you. Now you got to stop for them. Because if I keep driving, I’m not going to sell anything. I have to stop -- look for a spot, stop and wait.”

The shooting has led to heavier police patrols. For many young people, that means more scrutiny.

SLIM: “They’re riding around, checking everybody. Even though you’re not gang banging, they’re still going to check you.”

This 19-year-old student basketball player goes by “Slim.”

SLIM: “Raise your shirt up, let me see what you got, open your mouth, take your shoes off.”

A few blocks north, Rev. Pedro Windsor of La Capilla del Barrio Church has been busy in recent months with funerals.

WINDSOR: “I want to say almost eight killings.”

This year Windsor helped set up the Humboldt Park branch of the violence-intervention program CeaseFire.

WINDSOR: “All these kids are our children. There are some kids that need to be locked up, without a doubt. But you’ve got victims on all sides here. And we need to reach out to the younger children because they seem to me to be getting younger. I’ve been at burial sites where I see 12- and 13-year-old kids, members of gangs.”

Police have yet to charge anyone for Daniel Piña’s killing, but say their investigation is progressing.

In Humboldt Park, I’m Chip Mitchell, Chicago Public Radio.

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