By Rosemary Regina Sobol
4:32 PM CST, January 17, 2014
Kevin Baker and his cousin had just handed over their cell phones to the robbers when one of them had a question for the 19-year-old: What gang was he rolling with?
"My nephew was sorta stunned," Patricia Butler said this morning, a day after the shooting. "He was like, ‘Huh?’ It stunned him. Before he could let it out, they shot him. They surprised him. He ain't in no gang."
Baker was struck in the head and the abdomen, Butler said. A woman who was walking about half a block away called 911 and Baker was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center, where he was listed in critical condition.
Butler said the cousin, 22, is "totally, totally traumatized."
"But she’s a strong young woman," Butler said, and even drove the rest of the family to the hospital.
Police reported no arrests and had no descriptions of the robbers.
The shooting happened around 4:15 p.m. Thursday in the 6200 block of South Campbell Avenue, one block over from where Baker lives, police said.
Baker had just finished classes at Harold Washington College, where he was studying to become a veterinarian. His cousin was coming back from DePaul University, according to Butler.
The two took a bus to Ashland Avenue in the the Chicago Lawn neighborhood and were headed home when a dark-colored van pulled up at 62nd Street and two robbers got out, according to police.
"They asked for the cells and them gave them to him," Butler said. "They shot him anyway."
Baker said they called the cousin a "bitch," then asked her nephew “what gang he was rolling with."
An auto mechanic was working in a garage on the block when he heard three loud shots. “Boom, boom boom,’’ he said.
The mechanic, who did not want to be identified, said he peered outside and saw Baker lying on the ground and a young woman yelling.
As he walked up, he recognized both of them. He had recently worked on the woman's SUV, and he knew Baker as someone who “'aint into nothing’’ as far as gang or drugs. “He doesn’t even swear,’’ the mechanic said. “That’s crazy."
Baker was shot in an area of Chicago Lawn rife with gang violence, making the neighborhood among the more violent in the city. The area has seen continual feuding among members of the Gangster Disciples street gang, longstanding disputes that have been amplified with the formation of “cliques” or “factions” within the gang.
But there’s no indication Baker or his cousin belonged to gangs, police said.
Baker's aunt, Virginia Allen, said the family is worried whether Baker will recover. “Right now it’s not looking good for Kevin, but we keep hoping,’’ Allen said. “Things don’t look well. He’s not conscious.’’
Allen, 53, said her nephew usually meets with cousin "every day" as they leave school. "They are very bright young adults," Allen said.
"I’m tired of seeing children go through this. . .It’s time to bring an end to these senseless tragedies,’’ Allen said. “Today it’s my nephew, tomorrow it will be someone else’s nephew. We need to bring an end to this. . .You can’t walk down the street, play in the park. . .What are we paying taxes for?’’
This is the second tragedy to hit the family in days.
Late Friday night, Baker's 16-year-old cousin was killed after getting into a fight at a party in the West Woodlawn neighborhood, about four miles from where Baker was shot.
Marquise Harris was shot in the chest around 11:20 p.m. in a basement apartment of a two-story tan brick building in the 6200 block of South St. Lawrence Avenue where he lived, officials said.
Harris and his girlfriend began arguing, police said. Someone intervened, and he and Harris began fighting, police said. The other person left but returned soon after and shot the 16-year-old in the chest, according to police.
Theresa Taylor, 49, who lives a few houses down from Baker, said her son was shot in 2010 but survived: "This generation has a lot of problems," she said.
Baker and his family came over to Taylor’s house last weekend to celebrate her 1-year-old grandchild’s birthday. He played with the kids and took photos with the guests.
“I would love to see him walk out of the hospital," she said. "I want to see him accomplish his dreams.”
Earnestine Barnette, 51, and her daughter, Simone Barnette, 21, live a few doors away and consider themselves family to Baker.
"We grew up together," Simone said. "We talk about everything together. He always tells me to stay out of trouble."
Contributing: Andrew Zuick, assignment editor for WGN-TV, and Tribune reporters Peter Nickeas and Adam Sege.
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