Police, activists comfort shooting victims' families

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By Igor Studenkov

Contributing Reporter

Five days after 22-year-old Austin resident Keon Davis was shot dead near his house, officers from Chicago Police Department's 25th District, Chicago Institute for Nonviolence staff, and other local community activists gathered on that block to not only comfort Davis' family but offer resources to the family and the other residents.

They brought out a grill and played music. Neighbors and police officers collected a care package for the family. They canvassed the neighborhood, handing out "put the guns down" signs, as well as fliers with information on community events and services, such as help with expungement of criminal records. And Davis' sister, Tansha Davis was able to smile, at least for a bit.

According to a Chicago Sun-Times report, Davis was walking with an unidentified 18-year-old man on the west sidewalk on the 1600 block of North Mason Avenue early in the morning of May 5. Someone approached them on foot and fired. The younger man was shot in the shoulder, and Davis was struck in the head. He was taken to Stroger Hospital, where he died five hours later.

Richard Davis (no relation), who serves as the president of the Galewood Park Advisory Council and the beat co-facilitator for the CAPS (Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy) program, lives one house over from where the shooting happened. He said he was watching TV, so he didn't realize right away what happened. By the time he looked out the window, Keon Davis was shot. And while Richard Davis hesitated to speculate what might have been a motive, he wondered if it was connected to a shooting that happened on the 1800 block of Mason Avenue two days earlier. 

"There was no arguing, there was no screaming," he said. "There were just three shots, no car speeding away."

Officers from 25th District, which includes this block, lined up along the sidewalk where Davis was shot. District commander Anthony Escamilla offered his condolences.

"I know we can't give you what you lost, but we are here for you," he said.

The Austin-based Institute for Nonviolence was on hand to offer support as part of its strategy of reducing violence by providing resources for those who were affected by it as well as the perpetrators. Zerlina Smith, former 29th Ward aldermanic candidate who works as the organization's case manager, said Davis' family asked her two days earlier to do a "pop-up." The group set up a table with information about the available resources, and they later canvassed the block to share them with residents who didn't come out. 

As previously reported by Austin Weekly News, the New York University School of Law's Policing Project and the Chicago Police Department recently launched a new community policing pilot. Among other things, it created district coordinating officers, whose job it is to work with community members to find out what they need. DCO Anthonette Alcazar said that, in the wake of the shooting, she was there to do just that, as well as to work with Smith on getting the word out about the resources.

Tansha Davis said she and her family appreciated the support.

"We just want to get to the bottom of what happened and get some answers, or at least get something, so we can get closure" she said. "It wasn't right. He got into trouble [sometimes], but he was special to a lot of people."

Later, she told Austin Weekly News that her brother was someone who loved his family and stood up for her.

"[If] someone was bothering me, he'd be like 'leave my sister alone' — and he's my baby brother," Davis recalled. "He take care of you. He was just very lovely and a lot of people cared about [him]."

His fiance, Crystal Lassiter, struggled to find words to describe exactly how much Davis meant to her.

"He was sweet, funny; he was good hearted," she said. "He wasn't a bad person. All he wanted to do was have fun all the time. He made everybody happy. Kids loved him. [We] have gone through so much. He was always there when I needed him."

James Jones lived on the block for 18 years. He said he had known Davis since he was a little kid and said that, while Davis wasn't perfect, he didn't do anything that would have gotten him shot.

"I used to chase him off my lawn [when he was little]," Jones recalled. "He wasn't disrespectful. He was very, very respectful."

Jones appreciated that, in spite of the chilly evening weather, people still came out to support Davis' family and offer condolences. 

Email: igorst3@hotmail.com

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