By Pete Nickeas and Rosemary Regina Sobol
9:10 PM CST, January 26, 2013
A man slain on the West Side early this morning had two brothers and a sister who also were fatally gunned down in the city, according to a close family friend.
"He was the last one," said Laverne Smith, 30, who said the man's mother no longer has any children. "I know she's hurting."
Smith said it's unthinkable this could have happened again to the family.
"It's ridiculous," Smith said. "We need to get the guns off the street and build a good life for our babies. We need to really get together and stop fighting."
Smith heard loud gunfire about 2 a.m. and ran outside in the 1100 block of South Mozart Street to find her close friend Ronnie Chambers shot in the head. He died in her arms.
"All his siblings passed a long time ago," Smith said. "It was a hysterical thing."
Smith said she also knew Ronnie Chambers' sister, LaToya Chambers, and had grown up with them in the Cabrini Green neighborhood on the Near North Side. LaToya was a classmate of hers, about two years ahead, at the Edward Jenner school.
LaToya was killed at age 15 on April 26, 2000. Her brothers Carlos and Jerome also were gunshot victims, Carlos at age 18 shortly after Thanksgiving in 1995 and Jerome at age 23 on July 26, 2000.
Chambers' mother Shirley told the Tribune's Dawn Turner Trice in 2000 that "I have one child left, and I'm afraid that [the killing] won't stop until he's gone too."
According to that 2000 story, Ronnie has these tattoos on his forearms to remind him of his dead siblings: A crucifix with a ribbon draped across it commemorates Carlos; a tombstone with a crucifix and blood says R.I.P. for Jerome; and another tombstone with a cross is for LaToya.
"They say you can't outrun death, but I can try to dodge it," Ronnie said then. "I don't even try to live day by day anymore; it's more like second by second."
"He was my everything," Smith said of Ronnie's death. "I lost a part of me."
"Nothing that anyone can say can make me feel better," said Smith, who said Chambers was on the Ricki Lake show last month and was trying to help an aspiring rapper, YK.
On the Ricki Lake show, Chambers identified himself as former gang member who turned his life around and was trying to help others stay away from that kind of life.
Police said he’d been arrested 29 times, and has four felony convictions. Records show his most recent conviction was in 2005 for receiving, possessing or selling a stolen motor vehicle. He was sentenced to 3 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections, records show.
Smith said Ronnie, whose nickname was "Scooby," had been "trying to change his life."
Ronnie Chambers had just returned from a promotion or listening party for YK when the shooting occurred.Smith stood crying at one end of a vacant lot in the Lawndale neighborhood on the West Side early this morning while Chambers lay covered by a white sheet behind a maroon van at the other end.
Chambers, 33, of Chicago, had been in the driver's seat of the van, which had just arrived in the 1100 block of South Mozart Street when one person, probably two, opened fire, police said. Chambers was identified by family members at the scene and later by police.Smith wore a pink blood-stained shirt under a pink jacket, white pants dotted with drops of blood, and pink sandals. She paced the crime scene, at the north end of Mozart Drive where it ends at Fillmore Street, letting out occasional screams and leaning on her friend for support.
"I held him, they had to pry me from him," she said, crying. "He was breathing, gasping."
At least one other man, 21, was inside the van when the shooting started, police said. He had jumped from the front passenger seat to the back, quick thinking that police said probably saved his life. He was wounded in the thigh and taken to Mount Sinai Hospital. Police did not say how many people were inside the van. They also did not say exactly how many shooters there were, but did say seven shots were fired.
The shooting happened across the street from Safer Foundation North Lawndale, an Illinois Department of Corrections transitional facility for adults with criminal records, and half a block west of a fire station.
Family and friends, none of whom wanted to give their names, circled the north end of the scene, marked by yellow tape hung around trees, light poles and cop cars.
A young man at the scene who refused to give his name but said he saw the shooting called the gun used a "big boy."
"Look at that (bullet) hole," the young man said, motioning to the passenger side door on the van. "That's a full nickel."
An east-facing car sat abandoned in the T intersection formed by Mozart and Fillmore. Police weren't sure whether the people who abandoned the car were involved in the shooting or freaked out and fled the scene. Police found casings from two weapons – one a rifle – whose bullets had entered the van from both sides.
"He was gangsta with his (expletive)," the man said of the individual or individuals who did the shooting. "He knew what he was doing."
Despite his apparent proximity to the attack, he explained to a detective that he could not help police do their jobs. He later complained to a supervisor about their response time – he said 27 minutes but police said 3. Police said that they received one 911 call about shots being fired in the area.
A 16-year-old boy who said he was with the victims when the shooting happened wandered around the lot, looking toward the ground most of the time. He looked emotionally spent after being held by police for a short time at the scene.
"I just want to go home," he said, though he had no ride home. "It just happened so fast. I'm tired of explaining myself."
In another fatal overnight shooting, three men were shot about 4 a.m. outside of a diner at the corner of Wallace Street and Pershing Road in the Bridgeport neighborhood on the South Side, police said. Two men died at the email@example.com
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