Fourteen-year-old Damani Henard's family moved to Oak Park from Chicago about a year ago, hoping to escape the violence that shook the blocks around their home in Humboldt Park.
But the family wasn't overly concerned Tuesday evening when he decided to ride his bike to a friend's house in the old neighborhood.
"I'll see you when you get home," his mother, Yolanda Paige, recalled saying to her son in a telephone conversation just before he left.
"OK, I love you," Damani said.
The teenager was on his way home early Wednesday morning when he was fatally shot in the 5000 block of West North Avenue in the Austin neighborhood, police said.
"What am I going to do when Christmas comes, when his birthday comes, when the first day of school comes?" a grief-stricken Paige said Wednesday.
Hours before Damani was shot, Ashley Hardmon, 19, was standing with a group of young people in the 4800 block of West Potomac Avenue, just a few blocks away. Two men approached and opened fire, police said. One of the bullets struck Hardmon in the head, killing her.
She was trying to help her family by training to become a pharmacist technician, relatives said. Her mother, too, spent Wednesday looking for answers.
"At this stage in my life, I never thought I would bury either one of my kids," Hardmon's mother, Tiffany Hardmon, told reporters at a memorial of candles and teddy bears.
Police could not say whether the shootings were linked. No suspects were in custody.
"They don't know about the consequences of what they do," Damani's mother said, referring to her son's shooter.
Damani had called his mom about 6 p.m. to say he was going to go home and change his clothes, then visit a friend's house. He asked his sister, Zapria Robinson, for a dollar. She gave him her last one and he was out the door.
Robinson, 17, waited for him to return.
"I always wait up for him," she said. "That's my little brother."
By about 4 a.m., Robinson had nodded off and Paige also was sleeping when the family was awakened by two Chicago police detectives knocking on the door.
About a year ago, Paige used money she had saved to move with Damani and his three siblings into an Oak Park condo. "It was just too much gang activity," she said of their old neighborhood.
Damani graduated from West Park Academy of Fine Arts last month, and the family celebrated with a dinner at Old Country Buffet. He was enrolled at Oak Park and River Forest High School, where he hoped to try out for the debate, football and basketball teams, relatives said.
He especially liked to draw and hoped to become a newspaper cartoonist when he grew up, relatives said.
"That's how he expressed himself, through drawing," Robinson said.
Even at his young age, relatives said he cared deeply about the welfare of his family. He often told his mom he wished she didn't have to work two jobs to support them. He played with his 17-month-old niece. And about three days ago, he gave his sister pink lipstick and white sunglasses to go with her new hairdo.
As relatives left the morgue Wednesday, they reflected on the fact that Damani would not be celebrating Independence Day with them.
"It's going to be very emotional," Damani's cousin Laura Weathers said.
The gathering would go on as planned, she said, "to show our children that even though tragedy has struck we are still a family."
Tribune reporters Adam Sege and Jeremy Gorner, along with WGN-TV, contributed
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