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Editorial: Nightmare in Chicago: The killing of Treja Kelley

The Editorial Board, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Op Eds

In some Chicago neighborhoods, the normalcy of everyday life is regularly undercut by gun violence. It is this city's ceaselessly recurring nightmare -- as dizzying to comprehend as it is dismaying.

Treja Kelley, 18, graduated from high school this year. She had college plans and thought about going to medical school. She lived in the Back of the Yards neighborhood and worked at a local store. She was pregnant.

Kelley was walking home from work Sunday night when an unidentified man armed with a handgun emerged from an alley in the 900 block of West 52nd Street. The man argued with Kelley and then shot her to death, police say. She was struck three times in the head and several times in the torso.

Three years ago, Kelley was on a nearby street with her 17-year-old cousin, Christopher Fields. She had called him, asking to be escorted on foot from a bus stop. A man in a passing silver sedan opened fire, killing Fields and wounding a 19-year-old man.

The alleged gunman in that drive-by was arrested. Eventually, Deonte Davis, 30, was convicted of six counts of murder and a single count of aggravated battery with a firearm. He awaits sentencing. Kelley testified at the trial.

Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi says investigators are considering all potential motives for Kelley's death, which would include the possibility she was targeted for being a cooperating witness. No arrests have been made in connection with her death.

The abundance of shooting and killing in Chicago is a fact of life here, but it should never be considered routine. Each lethal case is unremittingly tragic. Chicago police say they made progress last month at stanching the blood flow, citing "the lowest number of August murders and shootings since 2011." About 90 minutes after making that announcement, a 15-year-old boy was killed outside his home in the Austin neighborhood, shot in his leg and back. He had been set to start high school a few days later.

 

Treja Kelley's family and friends told Tribune reporters that she was driven, independent-minded and had worked hard to overcome the trauma of witnessing her cousin's death. During her senior year at UIC College Prep, she wrote a passionate essay pleading for an end to gun violence, said Courtney McKenna, a former teacher at the school who was Kelley's former adviser.

"She's someone who I truly believe was going places," McKenna said. "She had a goal, and she was going to do it. She didn't stop for anything or anyone."

Gun violence is Chicago's intolerable burden. The killing of Treja Kelley adds to this city's painful legacy.

(c)2019 Chicago Tribune

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