Billy Sargent, 67, was fatally shot at the bus stop around 8:45 a.m., police said. By late afternoon, officers were long gone and CTA buses were again stopping at the corner. Clean-up crews started sweeping up the glass just before 5 p.m., almost eight hours after Sargent, of the 6100 block of South Vernon Avenue, was pronounced dead at 9:15 a.m. at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
“All these benches was Bill’s benches,” said childhood friend Jimmie Ross, gesturing to the wooden seats in each of the nearby bus shelters. “You’re going to see him on one of those benches every day of your life.”
Although no charges had yet been filed, police said Tuesday they were questioning a person of interest who matched the description of the shooter and was spotted running near the scene. A source said the suspect is a 15-year-old boy. The teen was later released without being charged after police corroborated his alibi.
None of the community members who walked by the crime scene Tuesday afternoon had any idea why someone would target an old man who spent his mornings at bus stops chatting with buddies and sipping coffee with cream and sugar.
Sargent went into full cardiac arrest after being shot in the chest, buttocks and side, police said.
The intersection of East 61st Street and South Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, which splits the West Woodlawn and Washington Park neighborhoods, has long been a hot spot for crime, residents said. Ernest Brooks, a retired police officer and one of Sargent’s neighbors, said he plans to leave the city.
“I got a for-sale sign around the corner,” the longtime area resident said. “The gangbangers come up and down here and practice shooting.”
Allan Harris, 49, said he and Sargent were among five men who spent their mornings at one of the corner’s bus shelters. Harris said he counted Sargent among his best friends, a “father figure“ with whom he spoke often about “sports, politics, the crime going on in the neighborhood.”
Harris said he planned to return Wednesday to the shelter where the shooting took place.
“I’m going to put some flowers there and I’m going to cry,” he said.
But come Thursday at 6 a.m., the coffee club’s usual meeting time, don’t look for Harris at the corner of 61st and King.
“It’s going to be different,” Harris said. “I’m not coming back out no more.”