Mentor: ‘It’s like he was born on a different path but got swallowed up in the streets’

Video by Jessica Koscielniak and Emily Gray Brosious
Story by Kaley Fowler and Emily Gray Brosious
Originally published at Homicide Watch Chicago
July 15, 2014

Cassius White moved to Chicago from New Orleans in 2006 after being displaced by Hurricane Katrina, friends said.

White and a 16-year-old boy were wounded in a drive-by shooting July 7 in the 9600 block of South Sangamon Avenue, authorities said.

White, 19, of the 8200 block of South Dante Avenue, died later that day.

Friends described him as wise beyond his years.

“He didn’t think like kids from our generation,” said friend Arielle Williams, 18. “He had an old soul and he seemed so old, so mature. He was very intellectual.”

White moved to Chicago when he was in fourth grade and bragged to his classmates that his father stayed in New Orleans to help hurricane victims, said friend Tevon Blair, 18.

White was well read, stayed up to date on current events and could easily hold a conversation with older adults, said Lenora Dennis, the mother of one of White’s friends.

“He was an exceptionally bright kid,” said Dennis’ husband, Kenneth Holman. “It’s like he was born on a different path but got swallowed up in the streets.”

White lived with his mother, but often stayed with Dennis and Holman, said Williams. White’s mother declined to comment.

“Cassius was very headstrong, and he’d listen to her, but he wasn’t keen on taking her advice,” Williams said. “He told me once he wished he could be the man she wanted him to be and he wished they were closer. He loved his mom.”

Holman and Dennis said they invited White into their home because they wanted to keep him off the streets. They said their house was a safe place for him and his friends to listen to music and play video games without getting in trouble.

Holman, who operates a recording studio out of his home, said he frequently tried to persuade White to pursue rapping, but White never showed much interest.

However, White brought up rapping during their last conversation, when he told Holman he was ready to record his first track.

“I was looking forward to him being under our watch in the studio and off the streets,” Holman said. “He fell in with some guys that were into street life and slowly devolved into that world in the last few months. I got the vibe that he realized he needed to do music because the walls were closing in.”

Friend Lamont Brown, 19, said he and some of White’s older friends tried to keep him out of trouble, but they could tell White was growing increasingly reckless.

Friend Kyndal Buchanan, 18, said White had a tough exterior, but still cared deeply for his friends and always put their needs first. She said he had a great sense of humor and could make anyone laugh.

Brown said that although White was “in the wrong state of mind” in recent months, he still had good intentions and aspired to be successful in life.

Nobody has been charged for the murder. Area South detectives continue to investigate.

‘Seeing him in the hospital bed like that…. made me feel numb’

By Emily Gray Brosious | Originally published at Homicide Watch Chicago | Jul. 8, 2014

Video by Emily Gray Brosious and Peter Holderness

It has been nearly a year since Andrew Turner was fatally shot in the North Lawndale neighborhood, and his family continues to search for answers as they struggle to cope with their loss.

It’s still unbelievable. It’s still fresh to me. And for it still not to be solved, that hurts a lot,” said Ebony Scott, Turner’s girlfriend and mother of his two oldest children.

Turner was a “family man” who was silly but firm with his children, Scott said. He wanted to raise them to be good men.

He took care of us,” Scott said. “He was my rock.”

Turner, 23, of the 1100 block of South Independence Boulevard, was shot in the jaw July 26, 2013, in the 3200 block of West Roosevelt Road, authorities said. He died six days later at Mount Sinai hospital.

Seeing him in the hospital bed like that, it made me feel numb.” Scott said. “I really thought he was going to make it. I had so much hope. … When I lost him, I felt like I didn’t want to live anymore. My heart stopped.”

Police said Turner had gang affiliations. Scott denied that claim, but admits Turner sold drugs to support his family.

There’s a lot of rumors … People hear he was black and he got shot, so they assume things,” Scott said. “Everybody’s got different ways of making a living. People out here selling a lot of things they shouldn’t be selling. But a lot of people doing it for the wrong reasons. Andy did it for his family.”

Scott doesn’t know why Turner was murdered, but thinks it has something to do with jealousy. She described him as a handsome and smart man with a nice family and nice cars.

I think they wanted what he had,” she said. “People don’t want to see you shine out here. Andy was shining in his glow, and they took him out that glow.”

Scott said she had been fearful of dangers associated with Turner’s lifestyle, but said he was on good terms with everyone.

I never thought this would happen,” said Audrey Langston, Turner’s grandmother. “He was a generous spirit and a free spirit … I miss him so much.”

Langston raised Turner and five of his siblings. She remembers him as a shy, well-mannered child.

People were always telling me how respectful he was,” Langston said. “That’s rare from young men these days.”

Turner was trying to turn his life around before he died, Scott said. He wanted a legitimate career and she tried to help him fill out job applications, she said.

A lot of people don’t know, but Andy was smart. He even went to college and he could of graduated,” Scott said. “But he got sidetracked with ‘Oh you’re pregnant, we need money.’”

Scott and Langston both think people in the neighborhood know who shot Turner and ask anyone with information to come forward.

I just want the detectives to come to my door one day and be like, ‘We got him,’” Scott said. “That’s all I want. I think about that every day.”