South side Chicago community in shock over killing of 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee

By Don Melvin, Bill Kirkos and Glen Dacy, CNN | 11/10/2015, 8:36 a.m.
People in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood have become used to the shootings that plagued much of Chicago's south side for decades.
Tyshawn Lee Facebook

CHICAGO (CNN) -- People in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood have become used to the shootings that plagued much of Chicago's south side for decades.

But even here, the killing of a 9-year-old boy came as a terrible shock.

"This caught everyone off guard," said Kirk McKinney, who has lived here for 44 years. "Coming home in broad daylight and you just assassinate a child. ... I've never seen anything this violent since I have been here. Never."

A community that is hard to shock

Tyshawn Lee was lured into an alley on November 2 and then shot to death in what police say was a targeted gang-related slaying.

"Tyshawn Lee was murdered in probably the most abhorrent, cowardly, unfathomable crime that I've witnessed in 35 years of policing," Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy told reporters last week.

The child was targeted, McCarthy said, because his father was a member of a gang that was in conflict with another gang.

The father, Pierre Stokes, is not cooperating with police. The Chicago Tribune said Stokes disagreed with what police have said about him but did not talk specifically about whether he belonged to a gang.

It takes a lot to shock people here. This year alone, police say, more than 390 people in Chicago have been killed -- and 2,500 have been shot.

Tyshawn Lee funeral

Funeral services for Tyshawn Lee are being held Tuesday at St. Sabina Church in Chicago. The service begins at 11 a.m. CT and will stream live on www.saintsabina.org.

Gangs fight over single city blocks

In the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood, where Tyshawn was shot to death, gangs battle over turf and the right to sell drugs on a particular city block.

Many residents here will tell you they would not be surprised to hear of innocent victims caught in the crossfire. But they say the targeting of a 9-year-old boy breaks new and horrifying ground.

Deronce Curd said he believes gangs may now be going after children on purpose.

"How can a little boy, 9 years old, defend himself?" Curd asked. "I've grown up in Chicago most of my life. This is just -- I'm speechless to what is going on right now."

A code of silence

Still, there is a code of silence here, no doubt reinforced by fear.

Father Michael Pfleger, a local church leader, has offered to relocate any witnesses who feel that talking to police will put them in danger.

The situation is so dire that Pfleger appealed on CNN for a return to the harsh street justice of days gone by.

"There was a code some years ago that if a person, gang member or not, killed a child on the street, they had to be worried about themselves not being killed by the street, and when they went to prison being killed, because these are things you just don't do."

"That code has been removed," he said. "There are no boundaries."

The funeral service for Tyshawn, who was shot multiple time in the face and the back, will be held Tuesday at St. Sabrina Church. A photo on the church's website shows the boy, bright-eyed and carrying a backpack, perhaps on his way to school.

CNN's Bill Kirkos and Glen Dacy reported from Chicago; Don Melvin wrote from London. CNN's Dana Ford in Atlanta also contributed to this report.