Heaven and Hell in Crime-Torn Chicago

A girl named Heaven is one of the latest victims of the city's gang violence. When will it stop?

ABC News
ABC News

“You are talking about years of wrong behavior that has been condoned,” Hardiman said. “As a result, violence has taken as many people off the Earth as some of the great plagues. We have to work to stop it. We just have to make the time to do it.”

Changing behaviors involves teaching gang members and former gang members to resolve conflicts. Today, so many youths are quick to pick up a weapon rather than talk, Hardiman said.

“Right now, shooting is the new fad,” Hardiman said. “They get instant credibility. People go to sleep thinking who they are going to victimize the next day. It has to be addressed as a public health issue because you have younger people growing up with the same mindset.

“Eighty percent of the homicides in the city are black-on-black homicides,” Hardiman continued. “People don’t know how to get along. Some of them have low self-esteem. They resort to killing when they feel intimidated. We’re teaching them to talk to one another, how to say, ‘I didn’t mean to look at you crazy.’ “

Indeed, CeaseFire has worked closely with Heaven’s family and within the community to prevent further violence, said Banks, who has three remaining children, ages 18, 15 and 11, all boys. Tensions ran so high after her daughter’s death that there was a fear that someone would retaliate for the taking of such a young life, Carl Bell, the violence interrupter who has been with the Banks family since the shooting, told The Root.

“We kept a presence there,” he said. “It was a calming of sorts. It’s a tragedy. I don’t usually advocate jail, but this guy needs to go to jail. He killed a baby. The hardest thing was hearing Ashake say she was going shopping for a dress to bury her baby in.”

On Monday, Jerrell Dorsey, a 26-year-old suspected gang member, was charged with first-degree murder and aggravated battery in Heaven’s shooting, CBS News reports. According to the Chicago Tribune, Dorsey’s lawyer, Eric Dunham, said that Dorsey was in the area when the girl was shot but was not the gunman.

Of the candy stand where Heaven was working when she was shot, Banks said that she wrongly assumed it would help deter gangbangers from entering the block. Her daughter had been urging Banks to move because of the violence, but Banks, who works as a hairstylist, said that she was unable to afford it at the time. Now she is scraping her dollars together to make it happen.

“I can’t stay here,” Banks said, her voice cracking. “She wanted to move before all of this happened, but we couldn’t. I’m getting up out of here now. They can have this neighborhood.”

Lynette Holloway is the Midwest bureau chief for The Root. The Chicago-based writer is a former New York Times reporter and associate editor for Ebony magazine.

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