Aréanah Preston was one of the “bright lights” in the Chicago Police Department.
That’s how John Catanzara Jr., president of the Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge 7, characterized the 24-year-old officer who was gunned down during a robbery outside her home in Auburn Gresham.
Mourners on Tuesday paid their respects at a wake at Blake-Lamb Funeral Home in Oak Lawn, where an American flag hung over 103rd Street from an extended fire truck ladder, and another large flag nearby flew at half-staff.
Preston was on her way home from her shift at the Calumet District police station shortly before 2 a.m. May 6 when four teenagers passed her in a sedan, circled back and three of them approached and tried to rob her, authorities have said.
They exchanged gunfire with her as she stood, still in her uniform, near her home in the 8100 block of South Blackstone Avenue, police said.
Preston was shot at least twice. A bullet also grazed her. One teen grabbed her gun and they fled as she lay dying.
The gunfire was recorded by an area ShotSpotter gunshot detection system about 1:43 a.m., according to police radio traffic, but an officer didn’t respond to the shooting until about 30 minutes later.
That officer took Preston to University of Chicago Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.
“They were the bright lights in this department,” Catanzara said, referring to Preston and two other officers killed in the line of duty in recent years — Ella French, 29, in 2021 and Andrés Mauricio Vásquez Lasso, 32, on March 1.
After graduating from UIC College Prep, Preston started at Illinois State University in 2016 and earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and law enforcement administration. While working for the Chicago Police Department the past three years, she studied for a master’s in jurisprudence at Loyola University Chicago and was slated to graduate last Saturday.
“I mean for a girl with a couple years on this department to go back and get her master’s degree and have that being her main focus told you she was on a trajectory to do some great things in this department, for this city, and it was tragically cut short,” Catanzara said. “She was slated for big things.”
Her mother, Dionne Mhoon, was presented with Preston’s diploma during the university’s commencement.
Sandra Wortham, a member of the Gold Star Family, which provides support to family members of officers or military members killed in the line of duty, said she is “so impressed” by Mhoon’s response to the tragedy.
“The family seems so strong,” said Wortham, whose older brother was a police officer and was fatally shot in 2010. “It’s really admirable. They seem amazing, particularly under these circumstances.”
Four teenagers were charged with first-degree murder in Preston’s slaying: Joseph Brooks, 18; Jakwon Buchanan, 18; Trevell Breeland, 19; and Jaylen Frazier, 16. They all have been ordered held without bail.
Preston’s funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday at Trinity United Church of Christ on the South Side.