“You have an innocent family coming home from a family outing,” Chicago Chief of Detectives Eugene Roy told reporters afterward. “In a second, two generations of that child’s family were wiped out.”
Add another generation if you count the unborn child, whose chance for life ended with the death of the mother along with the grandmother.
The mother, Patricia Chew, had been only three months pregnant, not far enough along for the doctors to have any chance of saving her developing baby.
Chew had previously given birth to two children, one now 5, the other now 11 months. The younger one, Princeton Chew, was also shot and lay screaming and bleeding on the sidewalk beside his mother until a responding cop scooped him up and sped to Stroger Hospital. Ambulances bought Princeton’s 25-year-old mother along with his 47-year-old grandmother, Lolita Wells, but both died despite the heroic efforts of the trauma team.
At least little Princeton was expected to survive.
The family had already lost somebody to gun violence, a cousin named Jaynisha Schaffer who was killed by a stray round as she rode on a Chicago expressway on July 4, 2014. She was one of 96 people shot in the city that Independence Day weekend.
The 14 fatalities included a 24-year-old pregnant woman named Jasmine Curry, whose unborn child had also been beyond saving.
In the two other stray-round killings of pregnant women in Chiraq during the past four years, doctors were able to deliver life in the midst of violent death.
One of the miracle newborns, Kahmani Mims-Jefferson, was just a month premature but proved to have suffered catastrophic brain damage when his skull was fractured in utero as his mother fell mortally wounded. He reportedly remains in a persistent vegetative state three years after his birth and his mother’s death. His grandmother, Deborah Jones, tends to him even as she battles bone cancer.
The second child, Laylani Casara, survived despite being born three months premature and weighing 1 pound, 5 ounces—even as her teenage mother, Eva Casara, died—on Christmas night of 2013. Laylani is not yet walking, but she is otherwise in good health and buoyant spirits.
“She smiles and laughs all the time,” the baby’s uncle, James Casara, said on Tuesday.
He reported that Laylani takes particular delight in those who also take the greatest delight in her.
“Just being around the family,” the uncle said. “Being around loved ones.”
The uncle can look at her and take comfort in knowing that some of his murdered sister lives on.
“She looks exactly like her mother,” the uncle said.
Meanwhile, the carnage in the streets has gone on and on and on.
On the weekend of September 19, the city reported 54 people shot, nine fatally. The dead included 14-year-old Tyjuan Poindexter, who was killed six blocks up South Greenwood Avenue from President Obama’s house. His mother had always forbidden him from going with just a buddy to the park, but he had kept asking and she had relented just that one time.
This past weekend, 57 people were shot, four fatally. Six were shot in one 10-minute period.
Then, on Monday evening, the pregnant Patricia Chew and her mother, Lolita Wells, were shot to death as they returned from a family outing.
Doctors say 11-month-old Princeton will have no conscious memory of his mother, including those moments when he was on the sidewalk, screaming and bleeding next to her as she lay dying. He will always have a scar to remind him that it happened.
At the Casara home, little Laylani was laughing and smiling in the presence of her loved ones. She will one day learn that her mother died even as she herself was born and that among those charged in the death by stray round was her mother’s boyfriend, her father.
But to be alive is still to be one of the lucky ones in the city known as Chiraq and too many other cities that suffer unending gun madness. Laylani’s uncle noted that she has a birthday approaching.
“She will be 2 coming up Christmas,” he said.