Elizabeth Ramirez didn’t know Antonio Brown personally. She only knew his story from what she gathered on the news — how Brown, a reputed gang member who has been arrested scores of times and faces gun charges, was the intended target of a bullet that, instead of hitting the father, found the tiny chest of his 7-year-old son Amari Brown.
That last part is all that’s important to Ramirez. On July 6, two days after the shooting, she walked up to the home in the 1100 block of North Harding in Humboldt Park, past the spot where Amari’s blood had caked on the sidewalk, and spotted Antonio.
Ramirez introduced herself as a parent who, four years after the death of her son Harry Rodriguez, is still grieving. She asked Brown if it was okay for her to hold a vigil near the spot where a makeshift memorial had bloomed along the property’s front-yard fence. And then she opened her arms to Brown for a hug.
Brown told Ramirez to do whatever she wanted. He nearly broke down crying during the long embrace.
“We are God’s children and he wants us to help each one another and to serve each other,” Ramirez said. “It doesn’t matter who you are. This is about trying to save a life and trying to support a family.”
Ramirez’s son Harry Rodriguez was killed on Oct. 23, 2011 while at his own surprise birthday party on the 2000 block of North Leclaire Avenue. He would’ve been 24 a week later.
According to Ramirez’s account of the incident in a 2013 article published by Chicago Talks, “gang members who intruded on the party aimed a gun at one of her son’s younger cousins, but Rodriguez pushed the boy back and took a bullet to the chest.”
“He had seen someone with a mask,” Ramirez told Austin Weekly News. “At first, he thought it was firecrackers, but when he went toward the kitchen it was a guy with a mask shooting.”
A Resident in the area said gang members mistook Rodriguez’s cousin “for a man they had argued with before the party because the cousin was wearing the same color hoodie,” Chicago Talks reported.
Ramirez said she was at home sleeping when she got the call. It was 2:00 a.m. She knows the emotional black hole Brown may be sucked into — how life, at times, will feel like the day-to-day recurrence of a waking nightmare.
“It feels like it was yesterday. Your life changes completely. You’re not the same person you were before. I don’t socialize with my family. I don’t do things I used to do because someone is missing,” Ramirez said.
She knows that capturing the person who killed her son isn’t as cut-and-dry as cooperating with the police.
“If somebody tells you, ‘I know who killed your son and I promise you in six months, your case is going to be solved,’ how would you feel? Don’t promise a parent that’s grieving over a child something you cannot accomplish. I know who killed my son. I have taken witnesses who overheard the shooter taking credit. I put my life at risk.”
In 2013, Chicago Talks reported, when Ramirez called police earlier that year for an update on her son’s case, she said “the department had assigned the case to a different detective since she had last heard from them.”
The six months Chicago police told her it would take to find her son’s killer has turned into nearly four years.
According to a written statement provided to Chicago Talks about unsolved murders in general, “The Chicago Police Detectives work tirelessly to solve every murder, bringing justice to criminals and closure to victims and their families,” reads the statement, in part. “Every murder, whether it happened last week or last year, is investigated with the same thoroughness.”
Ramirez’s vigil for Amari Brown will be held today, June 9.