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.

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