Samuel Isiah Thomas was known to family and friends as Big Sam. His nickname also likely described his friendly personality – he always had the biggest smile on his face, his family said.
On March 24, Thomas, 19, was shot to death outside his grandmother’s West Side home. It was nearly two months to the day that his dad, the late Samuel Thomas, was a victim of gun violence.
“You don’t know what this has done to the family, losing the father and then the son,” said Catherine Elam-Thomas, Samuel Isiah’s grandmother. “He was like a son to me. He was always over to visit me.”
At around 8:15 p.m. Wednesday, March 24, her grandson was outside her Ridgeway and Ferdinand residence with four of his friends and a cousin when the shooting occurred. Witnesses said that earlier a young woman came by the house, accusing Thomas of saying something inappropriate to her. Angry, she went and got her boyfriend, who came back and shot Thomas to death. Police are searching for the shooter – believed to be around 18 years old – the family says. A $1000 reward has been put up for any information. Thomas was shot just seven days before his 20th birthday.
“It’s just so senseless, and that something like this happened over what a girl said,” said a distraught Andrea Serese Willis, Thomas’s mother.
Ever since the elder Thomas was gunned down on Jan. 22, Elam-Thomas has contemplated leaving Chicago; now Willis says she’s thinking of doing the same. His mother recalled her son as “a very likable person. He was always laughing and smiling. He was not a bad child at all.”
Named after Chicago native and NBA legend Isiah Thomas, Samuel Isiah was born March 31, 1990. He graduated from Orr High School in 2009 and was interested in pursuing a career in forensic sciences – Court TV’s Forensic Files was one of his favorite shows. Thomas hadn’t yet settled on a college but was thinking about attending Wright College. He was the oldest of three brothers.
His father was shot near his West Side home, just steps from his apartment in the early morning of Jan. 22; he lived only a few blocks from his mother. That shooting remains unsolved. Samuel Thomas, also known as Red, was 41 years old and also graduated from Orr.
The family is planning to host a press conference Thursday, May 15 near Franklin and St. Louis, the spot of the Jan. 22 shooting and where family held a prayer vigil on March 13 for Red. The family encourages anyone with information to call Cook County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-535-STOP (7867).