Polynesia Sykes during an Oct. 11 press conference convened in Austin by the Leaders Network. | Lee Edwards/Contributor

With tears rolling down her cheeks, Polynesia Sykes, mother of slain 15-year-old Demetrius Griffin, Jr., made a heart-felt plea to Chicago.

“We have to stop this pattern; these people are killing our kids” Sykes said at an Oct. 11 press conference held at  Columbus Park Refectory, 5701 W. Jackson Blvd.

During the press conference, members of the West Side-based religious organization the Leaders Network announced that an anonymous donor pledged an additional $5,000 to their standing $2,500 reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever murdered the Austin teenager.

Griffin, a Steinmetz High School freshman, was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head and severely burned on the 5500 block of West Cortez last month. The Chicago Police Department has yet to announce new information about the case.

Leaders Network Co-Chair Rev. Ira Acree, pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church in Austin, explained that the donor, who requested anonymity, is a white businessman who lives in Oak Brook.

He said the donor met with Sykes prior to the press conference to share his encouraging words in person. Acree challenged anyone with information regarding the killing of Griffin to come forward, “because you have to stand for something at the end of the day.”

 “If the cold-blooded killing of Demetrius Griffin, Jr. doesn’t touch your heart, I don’t know if you have one,” said Acree.  

The West Side pastor said the Leaders Network consistently works to prevent murders within its sphere of influence. 

“All of our churches have active ministries, particularly with young people,” said Acree. “Members of our congregations and the pastors live in these communities and we’re not lost on the fact that we live here and we’re seeking the capture of cold-blooded killers. We’re not afraid of doing it publically.”

Leaders Network Co-Chair Rev. Mashall Hatch, pastor of New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, said he’s known the Griffin and Sykes families for many years and called Demetrius’ murder a “barbaric” act. He said that, until justice is served, the community cannot “go back to business as usual.”

“We cannot have closure as long as this criminal or criminals are still walking the streets,” said Hatch. “If he was not safe, then that means none of us are safe. So, to dignify the memory of Demetrius Griffin, Jr., let’s solve this crime together.”

Mary Bender, a relative of Griffin, called his murder “sad,” “brutal,” and “unbelievable.”  She recalled Demetrius’ baptism and described him as a “good child,” before expressing her appreciation for the Leaders Network’s efforts. 

“They’re just trying to find the killer, because Demetrius was one of our own; he belonged to the church community,” said Bender. “By God’s will, the murderer is going to be found. I just know it, because I believe in our father. I just can’t see him letting something like this happen to a 15-year-old child like this.”

Bender said the entire Austin community and individuals through social media have lent their prayers and support for the family over the past few weeks.

If you have information about Griffin’s murder, contact Chicago Police Department detectives at (312) 744-8261.

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