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Halloween mass shooting victims in Chicago struggle to heal, call for more support

Rosemary Sobol and Jake Sheridan, Chicago Tribune on

Published in News & Features

CHICAGO — Three children among 14 people who were shot and survived Halloween night are moving on with their lives, completing schoolwork, attending day care and even celebrating a 12th birthday nearly a month after the West Side mass shooting, relatives said.

The mothers of the three: an 11-year-old girl and brothers who are 3 and 13, shared the heartbreaking details with the Chicago Tribune as they begin the long process to rebuild their lives.

Meanwhile, the rest of the survivors, including a woman who was hit by a car while fleeing the hail of gunfire, have been released from hospitals and are facing time off work, doctor bills and seemingly endless rehab appointments.

At a “healing discussion” Tuesday, many of the victims said they haven’t gotten meaningful help to address their physical and emotional trauma. They called for more community support and asked people to donate to their GoFundMe, which has received few donations.

Pierre Riley, died of gunshot wounds suffered in the attack, which police said remains an open case with no arrests.

The brothers, 13-year-old Demetrius and 3-year-old Demyan, don’t talk much about the shooting at California Avenue and Polk Street, which began as a family gathering and balloon release for close family friend, Shakia Lucas, who died suddenly after complications from a surgery.

The boys were both shot in their right legs.

“They’re doing better,” said their mom, Shamikis Patterson.

Demetrius has been studying from home and keeping up with his eighth grade classwork while Demyan is a “very, very busy 3-year-old” who is back in day care after missing his friends but is still frightened to go outside, Patterson said. “He’s really afraid and he doesn’t want to leave the house.”

Demetrius isn’t able to go to school yet because he can’t feel his leg or foot.

“He can’t keep his balance — he’s walking on a walker,” said Patterson. “They do say he will fully recover but it’s so frustrating because they’re so young.”

The boys “had a fantastic time” at a birthday party this month for their friend, the 11-year-old girl who was also shot during the attack, their mom said. Originally, Demyan was cautious about attending.

“He kept saying, ‘I don’t want to go near the fireworks.’ He doesn’t understand that they weren’t fireworks at all,’’’ Patterson said.

The on-the-go toddler was in his mother’s arms when the attack happened. They “dropped to the ground” and Patterson pulled him under the wheels of a nearby car to take cover as sparks flew.

That’s when a bullet apparently ricocheted off a bag she was wearing and into Demyan’s calf. Patterson wasn’t shot.

Numb with fear, she passed the toddler to her sister but then found out Demetrius was also among the victims.

“Don’t panic” someone told her.

Waves of guilt come in sharp surges for Patterson. “I keep apologizing to them because originally I wasn’t going to come to the vigil,” she said.

But Patterson said Demetrius begs her not to blame herself. “It’s not your fault” he tells her.

The 11-year-old girl attended a Halloween party just before the vigil, where she was surrounded by relatives and friends, said her mom, Tiffany Patterson. She is not being identified out of safety concerns, at the request of her mother.

They were getting ready to leave, so Patterson began trying to round her up.

“I was looking for her so I could tell her to go get her things; that’s when the shooting started,” Patterson said. “She wasn’t outside. She wasn’t there.”

When Patterson found the girl, the 11-year-old was clutching Patterson’s 66-year-old mother’s side. Both had been shot. They managed to get inside a nearby home for shelter and were lying on the floor consoling each other.

Shocked, Patterson watched as her daughter coolly and calmly yanked the bullet out of her calf.

“She was talking normally, acting like nothing happened,” Patterson said.

Patterson scooped up her daughter and ran outside, not wanting to wait for an ambulance. A good Samaritan who lives down the street offered to help after hearing the gunshots and people screaming. “He drove us to the hospital,” she said.

Once at Mount Sinai Hospital, emergency room staffers put the grandmother and granddaughter in rooms next to each other.

The girl returned home early the next morning and her grandmother, Bobby Jean Curry, came home two days later, with four holes in her hip.

As she gets back into the real world, her focus remains caring for her grandmother and enjoying her new 12-year-old status.

 

“She changes her bandages and does everything for her. She can’t move around much,” said Patterson of her mother.

Patterson wondered how her daughter will ever put the tragedy behind her.

“I don’t know,” Patterson said. “I think about it every day.”

The woman who orchestrated the vigil that night, Cherice Patterson, said the family has recently organized a GoFundMe account, which as of Nov. 23 had raised $5,281 of a $100,000 goal. The shooting victims are mostly close-knit family and friends.

According to Patterson, who was also shot in the attack, the last two people to be released from hospitals, Conttina Phillips-Patterson, 48, and Lakita Kent, 34, returned home Nov. 15.

When the shooting began, Kent, who wasn’t shot, ducked between two cars. “One car took off and dragged me up the street,” she said.

“I don’t have any broken bones or anything. I had a skin graft because of my wrists and hands — they were scraped really bad when I was dragged,” said Kent.

What happened next is blurry but Kent believes she was still conscious, and she tried to sit up.

“I noticed my breathing was off track so I laid back down and some people came and helped me get off the street until an ambulance came and took me to Stroger,” Kent said.

Reflecting on the ordeal, Kent has decided against balloon releases or similar events in the future. “I decided not to go see any visuals.”

For Conttina Phillips-Patterson, who is still raw after losing her two sons in a fiery car crash on Chicago’s Near West Side in June 2019, the whole situation has made her realize how lucky she is to be alive.

“I’m trying. I’m trying. I’m doing OK — I got home,” Phillips said. “I was in there 15 days — but oh yes, glad to be here.”

Phillips, who is Cherice Patterson’s sister, said she underwent multiple surgeries and skin grafts on her left leg. A bullet damaged nerves and broke a bone, and she won’t be able to work for months, she said.

“I’m not able to lift my feet up. I can press down on a car’s gas pedal but can’t lift it off,” she said. “I’m just praying that I’ll get able to get that nerve going.”

At Tuesday’s “peace circle,” Phillips-Patterson wore a hospital bracelet around her wrist. A sprawling brace covered her whole leg. She walked with crutches and her sister limped.

The victims talked about where bullets landed: a hip, a leg. And most devastatingly, a child. They dried tears and pointed out that they haven’t gotten significant support, despite politicians and reporters initially showing up.

The Patterson family’s GoFundMe has raised almost no money. Having to ask for donations to get needed medical and psychological support after a shooting that they still don’t know the reason for is frustrating, they said.

Support for victims hasn’t meaningfully materialized, a failure that leaders and institutions across the city are responsible for, said Cornelius Parks, pastor of the Good Hope Freewill Baptist Church that hosted the discussion.

“You can offer resources and try to force (victims) to come and get them. But what about you coming to them where they’re at?” he asked. “They try to make it seem like this is normal in this community. It’s not normal for a mass shooting to take place of this magnitude.”

The response to the mass shooting has been strikingly different from the outpouring of deserved support after the Highland Park mass shooting, said Terry Young, vice president of the Black Men United anti-violence organization.

“They didn’t ask people what they needed. They came and provided everything for them,” he said.

Victims called for psychologists for their kids and public donations. Several said they want to see the person or people who shot them be punished.

Compared with the $100,000 reward offered by the construction team to find the person who placed a noose at the Obama Presidential Center, the $15,000 reward police are offering for the mass shooter is insufficient, Cherice Patterson said.

“I haven’t spoken with police. I haven’t heard a word. My family hasn’t heard anything,” she said. “I feel like this is being swept under the rug.”

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TO HELP

The Patterson family’s GoFundMe, which family members said will be shared among shooting victims, is at www.gofundme.com/f/the-patterson-family-fundraiser-healing-process.

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©2022 Chicago Tribune. Visit chicagotribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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