Catherine Elam-Thomas can’t stop thinking about her son, Samuel, and whoever is responsible for his death.

He was shot four times in the early morning of Jan. 22 outside near his West Side apartment. Police found his body near his car with gunshot wounds to his leg and stomach. The crime took place just steps away from his apartment building near Franklin and St. Louis. Elam-Thomas recalled her son telling her that his car had recently been broken into and he was going to keep watch of it. He was found in his pajamas. Witnesses said his car alarm had gone off but police have no leads in the case.

On Saturday, Elam-Thomas led family and friends in a vigil at the site of the shooting. Samuel Thomas, 41, was known by his nickname, “Red,” which he’s been called since childhood. He leaves behind a wife and three teenage sons. Red was also a member of Greater St. John Bible Church, 1256 N. Waller, where he volunteered as a security officer.

Church pastor, the Rev. Ira Acree, also attended the vigil with Red’s fellow church members, many with tears in their eyes as they remembered their friend. The group also passed out fliers with Red’s picture on it to pedestrians, passing cars and surrounding homes.

The day before the shooting, Elam-Thomas recalled spending all of that day with Red, her only child. The family has lived on the West Side for more than 40 years. Red graduated from Orr High School where he also played basketball. Baseball was his other favorite sport to play. He was working for Pacific Railroad at the time of his death. Elam-Thomas said her son was helpful and always giving to others.

“Everyone on the West Side knew him,” she said. “He didn’t look down on anyone. He always had time to have a conversation with you. He didn’t bother no-body and mostly stayed home.”

Police have told Elam-Thomas they think the shooting was a robbery, but Red’s car wasn’t taken.

A sea of people stood and prayed near the spot of the shooting on Saturday. Red’s car was parked along the curb just off the corner of a side-street park on Franklin. The multi-story apartment building where he lived is just an eyes-glance west on Franklin. Since the shooting, Elam-Thomas has tried to get the word out about her son. She hasn’t been back to work since Red’s death and confessed that she’s thought of leaving the city.

She’s put up $1000 in a reward for information about Red’s case. Crime Stoppers has put up the same amount.

“This has just torn the whole family apart,” she said. “To me, it was a senseless killing. Why shoot someone over this? I don’t know how I’ll be able to make it if they can’t solve this case.”


To get involved

Contact the LEADER’s Network: 773-599-6083