By Peter Nickeas
1:21 PM CDT, May 18, 2013
Lula Parker sat on her front porch in a heavy pink robe. A 27-year-old man lay on her parkway, shot in the head, part of the exit wound visible on the lower part of his face. He was surrounded by shell casings.
The retired city worker – she spent 32 years with the city's Department of Health - was jarred awake by gunfire and looked out to see what she thought was a black plastic bag laying in front of her house, just west of Cicero Avenue on Iowa Street.
It was a few minutes before 4 a.m., and by the time she realized the bag was a man, her daughter was calling 911.
"You can't go back to sleep behind nothing like that," she said.
It's not clear why the man was killed, but his attacker appeared to have shot him from close range, as a number of shells from a 9mm gun lay next to his body this morning. The man was identified by the Cook County medical examiner's office as Keith Johnson, 27.
Police only said an argument of some sort preceded his death. Johnson was declared dead at the scene, the third person in the city to die in a homicide by a gunshot wound since 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Parker, 67, stepped softly off her front porch to explain the sound that woke her not three hours after she went to sleep after spending the evening with her granddaughter. One of her three dogs - Booby, Mocha or Stud - barked inside as she spoke. Three other dogs guarded a car repair lot across the street, from whose steel walls hung a sign reading "under new management."
Half a dozen people sat on a porch two houses down, saying little but looking toward the body frequently.
Parker's house is separated from a large vacant lot to the east by a small alley. Someone has set up a basketball hoop with a plastic backboard and tattered net in what appears to have once been a parking lot, next to a wooden backboard that long ago lost its rim. Graffiti marks the concrete barriers that prevent people from parking in the grass.
A young couple waved to Parker as they walked own the alley toward Iowa.
"I heard a lot of noise" before lying down in her upstairs bedroom, Parker said. "But you don't pay it no attention. People talking, sure, I heard some of that. But I didn't hear anything like no fighting."
She had never seen a body before, and she appeared taken aback by the sight of it lying 6 feet from her front gate.
"I just keep thinking about how long they let the body lay there, I didn't understand that," she said.
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