Chicago began this week with the deadliest day in the city in over a decade. The week ended as the bloodiest of 2016.
Arshell “Trey” Dennis III moved to New York to leave behind the violence and racial profiling he faced in the South Side of Chicago, where his father worked as a police officer. He succumbed to that violence during what one can only hope is its peak.
“I do appreciate that I am where I am,” he told his college roommate in a video interview last year from New York. “A lot of people where I’m from don’t make it out.”
Dennis planned to graduate from St. John’s University in New York City and become a writer to “influence” the world positively.
“If you don’t know me,” he said in the video, “you gonna know me.”
The aspiring writer and journalist, weeks from becoming a junior at St. John’s and NAACP student chapter vice president, returned to Chicago for the weekend to surprise his sick mother, according to WGN TV.
Sitting on the porch of his family’s home Saturday night with a friend, bullets struck them both in his Wrightwood neighborhood. The 2o year old friend hospitalized, Dennis died as his mother screamed out.
“You do not want to hear a mother’s cry for her son,” a neighbor told the Chicago Tribune.
No arrests have been made. Authorities say the investigation is active. Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson said the shooting was being treated as “mistaken identity.”
“Arshell was a good kid, making his parents proud and studying for a promising future,” Johnson, who worked with Dennis’s father in the 1990s, stated.
A visit to the family on Sunday left the superintendent “at a loss for words for the amount of grief.” The superintendent said there is “absolutely no credibility” to the theory that Dennis had been targeted because his father worked as a police officer. The young men have no criminal records.
Chicago police, however, note gangs initiate new members by having them shoot anyone they find, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Photo via Chicago Tribune
“The loss of our son is stunning and painful,” the Dennis family said in a statement to the Sun-Times. “Tragically, we were going to take him to the airport today at 3 p.m. to return to school. Now because of this senseless violence, we will be grieving and planning his funeral. Trey was smart, funny, and the light of our lives.”
Dennis ran cross country in high school, played chess and read in the Louder Than a Bomb poetry competition. According to multiple sources - former and current teachers, school administrators - Dennis was mild-mannered and easygoing.
Dennis and his friend are unique, despite falling victim to the same senseless gun violence that has led to a thaw over Chicago. 85 percent of gunshot victims have had prior contact with police. Dennis and his friend are the exception.
Since the start of the year, 2607 people have been shot in Chicago, according to a Chicago Tribune analysis.
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Chicago Homicide Unit maintains a depressing Twitter account, filled with 127 character obituaries for young black men and links to Go Fund Me accounts for those in need of help to cover funeral expenses.
In the above-mentioned interview on YouTube, Dennis discusses police brutality and racial stereotypes.
“I do think that I’ll be able to influence a lot the way people think,” Dennis said. “And give them an outlook on the things I’ve been through, and things that people where I come from go through, and just help them get through the struggles that they go through.”