Sunday, October 25, 2009
It Breaks My Heart
Breaks my heart to see innocent kids killed by gang violence. Unfortunately, I don't think there's much we do. None of the city, county, state and federal programs that have been proposed can civilize the animals that did this. The best we can hope for is to catch them and lock them away before they hurt the innocent.
Mom: Slain teen did everything to avoid gang violence
Lucia Toscano-Escamilla did everything she could to keep her son Gamaliel Toscano away from the grip of gangs and violence.
Since he was 10, the curly-haired boy nicknamed "Gama" attended after-school programs to keep him safe in his gang-plagued South Side neighborhood. For two years, she kept her son out of nearby Tilden High School to avoid gang problems, but his grades prevented a transfer to a safer school, so he returned there this fall.
On Thursday afternoon, her greatest fear came true when Gama was shot as he walked home from school with several friends about 2:40 p.m. on the street near 47th Street and South Racine Avenue, about a half-mile from the school.
The 17-year-old 10th-grader, is the fourth Chicago Public Schools student killed so far this year.
At his Back of the Yards home blocks from where he was killed, Toscano-Escamilla and her youngest child Misael were surrounded by dozens of family members and Gamaliel's friends. Through a Spanish translator, she recounted running to the scene, but being kept back as police secured the crime scene.
Comforted by her priest, Lucia Toscano-Escamilla, cradling a picture of her son soccer team, begged for peace in her community.
While police were releasing few details, friends told of a quarrel between Toscano and several boys the day before. On Thursday, they say Gamaliel was shot by an offender who fled in a waiting car.
Friends insisted the boy didn't run with gangs and often spent time away from his neighborhood. "He was funny...he had our backs, he was a good friend," Christian Garcia, 15, said.
The district recently launched a plan to curb youth violence, part of which will offer resources and counseling to 200 students at risk of being shot within the next two years.
Staff at the Chicago Commons New City Center said Toscano was a mature young man who took younger children in the program under his wing.
"It is the worst situation because he was one of the sweet kids," said Felmar Dean, a staff member at the New City Center. "If he walked into a room, he said hi to everyone."
Staffer Cassandra Cortez said that while he could be silly, the victim had "a mature way of carrying himself."
Friends said the teen would warn younger kids in the program to avoid the neighborhood gangs, which plague the area.
"From what I knew, he wasn't in gangs. But this a highly gang-infested neighborhood," said Nataly Barrera, who knew him from the New City Center. "And here you either choose to be a part of it or you get threatened for not being a part of it."
"This is a neighborhood where you're either involved with it or directly affected by it regardless of whether or not you're a gang participant. It's infested by gangs," Cortez said.
--William Lee and Azam Ahmed