Something compelled Adrienne Lando to stay outside and watch police working a scene in her Far South Side neighborhood, even before she learned that two teen boys had been found shot dead in the field or that she’d once provided a home to one of them.
She usually wouldn’t stay out so late. Her daughter told her to go to sleep. But she remained standing on the sidewalk south of the field, looking across the yellow crime tape police had stretched across her block.
“I couldn’t go in the house for some reason,” Lando said. “And then to find out it’s someone that you knew, someone that stayed in your house, slept in your bed, ate your food… It’s very scary.”
Raysaun Turner, 16, and Darnelle Flowers, 17, were found dead with gunshot wounds shortly before midnight Sunday near 131st Street and Rhodes Avenue in the Golden Gate neighborhood. Their bodies had started to decompose, a police source said.
“No parent should have to go through that,” Lando said. “To have to identify their child in some grass.”
Police taped a rectangle around the field between 130th and 131st Streets and Eberhart and Rhodes Avenues, later expanding the crime scene several yards further south on Rhodes and east on 131st. A few family members, including Flowers’ mom, parked their cars on Rhodes, facing the scene. She started to walk underneath the yellow tape, but police told her she had to stay out of the crime scene. A man who she arrived with hugged her as she began to cry and helped her back to their black sedan, where she sat in the passenger seat and stared blankly ahead.
More people gathered on Eberhart, on the southeast corner of Golden Gate Park. Among them, Turner’s mother said she needed time to process what had happened to her son.
Family members said the boys went to Christian Fenger Academy High School, where Turner’s family said he earned good grades and played team sports, including basketball.
Both teens had been reported missing in alerts sent out by Chicago police on Friday, a source said.
Turner had been last seen near 10100 S. Indiana Ave. wearing dark denim jeans, a dark shirt and hoodie and was known to frequent the Golden Gates apartment complex and Palmer Park.
Flowers had been last seen in the 11300 block of South Stewart Ave. wearing a red hoodie, army green pants and black striped gym shoes. He was known to frequent the areas of Palmer Park and Altgeld Gardens. He had his nickname, “Bibby,” tattooed on his lower right arm.
Their families started getting tips stemming from social media: The boys could be found in the grass near “G.” A group of four teens were seen walking into the field and only two walked out, they were told.
Family members scoured the nearby Golden Gate Park, but said they hadn’t thought to look so deep in the overgrown field across the street.
In the 13100 block of South Rhodes Avenue, several neighbors said they heard gunshots Friday evening, around 7 or 8 p.m. But they said that wasn’t unusual and none of them saw anything.
Residents use the field as a shortcut to the neighborhood store, and a footpath is worn into the dirt. Some neighbors had walked through the field since Friday. One woman had crossed it earlier on Sunday.
One man who heard the gunshots said he has lived on the block, on and off, since 1967 when the young trees were taped to stakes and the sidewalks weren’t paved yet.
He most recently moved back in 2014. It’s still one of the nicest blocks around, he said, but the neighborhood has only gone downhill since the rise of crack cocaine in the 1980s.
He’s used to teenagers running around the block and set a basketball hoop in front of his house for them to use. He didn’t know all their names but would greet them when he saw them, say what’s up and tell them to stay out of trouble.
Lando just moved into the neighborhood about a month ago and hasn’t finished unpacking. She doesn’t think she will, she said. Her neighbors are kind but the violence is too much.
When she first noticed police at the north end of her block, she didn’t know anything about what had happened. As she stood and watched, one of her daughters rode up on a bicycle and said she’d heard someone had been killed.
Hours later, when one of Turner’s relatives came to the scene, Lando put her arm around the woman as she started to cry. They’d never met before but instantly connected.
“Not Ray Ray,” the relative said. “I feel like I’m in a dream. I don’t feel like it’s real. It can’t be real. They’re killing the children.”
“Nobody fights no more,” Lando said, resorting to gunfire instead of fist fights.
“We don’t even know what this is about,” the relative said.
Until early Monday, Turner’s family had hoped he was still alive, they said. Though it wasn’t like him to run away.
The relative told Lando she’d heard the other boy went by Bibby, but his real name was Darnell.
“You know him? Lil Bibby?”
Lando started crying, but she wanted to be sure. “Short, dark-skinned?”
“Yes,” the relative said, “that’s who he’s in the field with.”
Lando took a few steps away and sat down in the grass with her legs spread out in front of her.
“I took him into my home last year. He was rough around the edges,” Lando said. “Oh my god. Oh, oh, oh, Bibby.”
“They over there together, baby,” the relative repeated.
“I tried to help that baby,” Lando said. “I tried to help him. I tried to help him. Oh my god…. my boys are going to be devastated.”
Flowers stayed with her family for a few months last summer when she had a house on 117th, she said. He’d been having a rough time, and her sons, a few years older, took him under their wing. He gave her no problems, did chores with the rest of the kids, and seemed earnest about turning his life in the right direction, she said.
When he left, he thanked her and told her he was going home.
“You could tell there was something on his mind, something haunted him from the past or something,” Lando said.
Only people who knew him well would be able to pick up on it, and even then, it was hard to tell exactly what it was, she said. And most of the time, he was a fun kid who loved music, loved his phone and would sit on the porch with her teenage daughter telling jokes.
She’d heard about him getting into trouble on the streets, but he was always respectful and well-mannered under her roof, she said. Once, when she was planning to barbecue but got sick, he told her to lie down and he’d finish. He burned all the hot dogs, but it was a fun moment, she said.
“He just wanted to change his life,” Lando said, blinking back a tear. “He tried. I tried.”
SOURCE: The Chicago Tribune – Hannah Leone