I first met Alberto “Al” Bocanegra back in 2002. I was running for alderman and like a lot of independent candidates, we had joined the mayoral campaign of William “Dock” Walls. I remember Al as a spirited and opinionated young man who had a lot of vision for Chicago in general and especially his Mexican-American community. I remember he invited me to a party in his backyard where I met both his mother and father.
Four years later in 2006, we again all got together. I was running for alderman for a second time and Dock Walls was again running for mayor. We became part of a group called the Committee for a Better Chicago. Facebook was in its infancy, and Alberto and I became Facebook friends.
On the surface, it seemed like Alberto and I had a lot of mutual agreements. And in reality, it was true. But there was one issue on which we were totally opposite. And that was the subject of illegal immigration. Alberto was in favor of it; I was against it.
I don’t recall all the details of a heated Facebook conversation we had. Alberto was young and idealistic, and I had to bust his bubble by telling him that Cesar Chavez had marched on the border against illegal immigration. I can still remember the picture in Jet Magazine of Dr. King and Cesar Chavez arm-in-arm marching to the border. Alberto couldn’t believe it, so I Googled it and posted him a link to a website that confirmed what I said. It was a shocking moment for him because as a young person in his 20s, he really didn’t know.
That Facebook post subsequently became a very heated conversation. Several people I knew and had worked with on the mayoral campaign unfriended me because of the position I took. But Alberto didn’t.
Over the years, there have been many subjects that we did not agree on. We would post back and forth, and eventually just stop because neither one of us was going to change our position. It was about three weeks ago, when Rahm Emanuel announced that he wasn’t going to run for mayor, that I commented on how Rahm made his announcement on the first day of the trial of Jason Van Dyke in the LaQuan McDonald case. Alberto shared my post along with a comment that we hadn’t agreed on anything in such a long time.
Alberto spent nearly a year in Northwestern Hospital, fighting cancer. I would occasionally check in on him, asking how he was doing. I was amazed when just a couple of months ago he was released. He had beaten cancer and won the battle. Unfortunately, winning the battle against cancer is easier than winning a battle against the dangers out here on Chicago’s streets. Early in the morning of Wednesday, Sept. 26, Alberto was following a group of bicyclists. He saw a car hit a bicyclist. He chased the car and got into an argument with the driver. It appears the driver called a friend because a third vehicle showed up, a blue SUV. The coward in that blue SUV had a gun and shot Alberto twice in the neck. Alberto was killed.
Alberto did not deserve to die at the hands of someone who had no right to take a life. I pray that God smites that killer. We always like to ask God to save people, but I think it’s now time to ask God to take the murderers away. Those individuals do not deserve to breathe another breath. And I truly believe that if they knew that thousands upon thousands of people were praying to God for their demise, it would send a stronger message than anything else. It would make it difficult for them to close their eyes and go to sleep, for they might not wake up.
Rest in peace, Alberto Bocanegra. I am praying that your killer joins you in death, not in heaven but burning for eternity in hell!