Fight Or Flight: Taking Back Chicago’s Violent Blocks

Fight Or Flight: Taking Back Chicago’s Violent Blocks

WBEZ brings you fact-based news and information. Sign up for our newsletters to stay up to date on the stories that matter.

Three-year-old Devon Quinn is paralyzed from the waist down. 

He was with his dad, Desmond Bell, last Sunday when a drive-by shooting happened. They were visiting family near the 6100 block of Kimbark Avenue.

“Worst day of my life…worst Father’s Day,” Bell recalled. 

Bell’s voice shook as he stood right in front of the spot where his son was shot, just days earlier. What was even harder, Bell said, was that a lot of people on the block saw what happened to his son.

“To know that I had a lot of friends — well, people I call ‘friends’ out here — and nobody wants to come forward, step up and be a witness,” Bell struggled to tell a crowd of neighbors and reporters Friday. “And my son is sitting in the hospital paralyzed from the waist down for somebody else.” 

Police ask witnesses to come forward 

Chicago police said the shooter, 23-year-old Desean Wynn, was charged with attempted murder Thursday. But Ald. Willie Cochrane says that’s not a guarantee he’ll be off the street for good. 

“The bad guy has to go…period. The bad guy has to go,” Cochrane said. 

Cochrane was a former Chicago police officer before being elected alderman of the 20th Ward in 2007. He said this block was targeted; and it’s been targeted over and over and over again. A few dozen residents gathered Friday to post fliers offering a $5,000 reward for those who “break the code of silence,” and tell police what they saw. Despite the arrest, prosecutors need witnesses to testify in court to get a conviction.

Cochrane told them: There’s no street cred for being silent when lives are at stake.

Amid violence, some consider leaving Chicago 

Community resident Adele Thomas says she used to bring her three sons to the park at the end of the block every day.

But her oldest, Legend, who just turned nine, doesn’t want to go outside.

Legend and his dad had walked to the store 10 minutes before the shooting. He heard the gunshots, and it wasn’t the first time. Thomas said it’s difficult to explain to her sons what’s happening — because she doesn’t have the answers. 

“He’s [Legend] afraid to come outside — and I actually don’t want to bring them outside. We actually have to go out of the neighborhood to have some fun,” Thomas said.

Legend stuck close as his mother as she talked about the violence. He’s had friends in school who have had family members shot. He knows, to some extent, what’s happening. Last summer around this time, three people were shot on the block — and one of the men collapsed on their lawn.

“And we are going to have to move,” Thomas exhaled.

She moved back to Chicago five years ago from Elgin thinking things were better in Chicago.

“I can’t raise my kids out here. I’m thinking it’s a move we’re definitely going to have to make,” Thomas said. 

Legend didn’t say anything when his mother made the impromptu announcement, but it was clear from the way he looked at his mom, that he was surprised to hear they might be moving.

“I know you love your school…but me and daddy are gonna have to make some changes, babe,” she told him. “Safety is first for us. It’s the number-one concern, it’s the number-one thing. As parents, we have to make sure that you guys are safe, and being here isn’t safe anymore.”

A recent New York Times report found that nearly half of all parents living with children would like to leave Chicago. And nearly half of African-Americans say they have changed their daily routines in recent months in response to crime.

An earlier broadcast version of this story misidentified Devon Quinn’s father, his name is Desmond Bell.

Katie O’Brien is a reporter and producer for WBEZ. Follow her @katieobez.