The apartment complex along Ainslie is actually covered in related gang graffiti, all seemingly mourning the death of a comrade.
What kind of man was Shadow, for him to earn that nickname? Did he in fact move through the streets, soundless but always close? Or was he as loyal as a shadow, watching your back?
I can't recall a shooting or stabbing that occurred recently on that street, and perusing EveryBlock or Google News doesn't reveal anything.
Was this a silent death that went unreported? Or was this graffiti done in remembrance for a death months ago, or even almost precisely a year ago?
Someone out there knows who he was, and when, how and why he died.
I see the young men with their facial and neck Latin Kings gang tattoos loping around the 'hood or checking me out in the liquor store. They seem nice, respectful.
Their secret, delinquent life makes me wish I was a man. I hesitate to engage them, imagining being scolded by my mother, other journalists, and my boyfriend if I were to start following them around, even shadowing them to see what they do.
This little area west of the river and Ronan Park has seen some activity in the four years since I moved here. (Yes, yes, it is significantly safer than 10 years ago.)
Believe it or not, all thegun-related activity has helped me get over my father threatening to shoot my mother when I was a little kid.
The red line on the map below is where the RIP graffiti is located, the blue diamonds are police cameras.
1) The first shooting I witnessed months after moving here, on the same corner where the ice cream truck is parked in the first picture above. Two Hispanic men in jeans and white t-shirts shot a man almost as black as night as they rode by on bikes. A deadly, coordinated, bike ride in the middle of the night. The shot man, in a clean polo and khakis, crawled for a little bit while his insides stained the sidewalk, but by the time the EMT workers unceremoniously dumped him into the ambulance he was cold stiff and lifeless. The police that questioned me and my roommates that night, around 4am, told us it was drug related. I start blogging about the neighborhood shortly after.
2) Last August (?), my boyfriend and I park his car in front of the BYOB pool house on Lawrence when a black SUV opens its doors and starts shooting at people Ainslie. No one is injured, miraculously, considering it was around 10 pm and lots of people were on the street, including people waiting for the bus on both sides of Lawrence.
3) The same SUV involved in the 2) shooting is involved in the shooting of a 19 year old man on the corner of Troy and Ainslie just weeks later.
"...was found shot to death in the 4900 block of Troy Street, police News Affairs Officer Hector Alfaro said. He was shot in the head about 10:15 p.m. and was pronounced dead at the scene." (CBS)Police responding to shots fired at Troy and Ainslie chase the SUV, and when a man hops out the vehicle, shoots at the police, and runs into an alley, he is promptly fired upon and killed by police.
*) A makeshift memorial that I first noticed in 2010, which read "RIP Erik" and "scarface." The apartment building the memorial was in front of was torn down to make the parking lot for the Super Mercado larger, but people still leave flowers and candles, and right RIP on the fence to this day.
(photos from 2010 of the memorial, salvaged from Google's cached Image search of the Albany Park Post on the Windy Citizen. Additional information about Erik "scarface" was written in the comments section of that post, which is now lost forever.)
Given the date of his death and the date the graffiti went up and the location, I think Shadow was the 19 year old killed on September 16th. He was never identified by the media, and I wonder if the same man that shot him was the same man killed by police that night.
As for the graffiti, I understand it is a Latin Kings tradition, but how is that better than candles and flowers?