Parents of children who were homicide victims gathered Saturday at a South Side church to meet with Chicago police and county prosecutors to answer some of their questions about the unsolved investigations into their children's deaths.
The meeting, which was closed to media and attended by about 40 families at St. Sabina Church in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood, helped some parents understand ongoing issues they have with police detectives, like not getting their calls returned or a murder being termed gang-related when their children were not involved with gangs, said Pam Bosley, a member of the activist group who organized the gathering.
It's the first meeting this year organized by the activist group Purpose Over Pain, which brought together police and representatives of the Cook County State's Attorney's Office to answer questions from concerned parents, said Becky DeaKyne, who lost her son, Leon DeaKyne, in 2011.
"It was very beneficial to learn what we don't know," said DeaKyne. "Any communication that we get is good communication."
Parents who spoke to reporters after the meeting said gatherings with officials are important to foster better communication between neighborhoods and police. For most, it was also a deeply personal gathering, with some parents crying as they spoke about their deceased children and the effort to get justice in their cases.
"We're just trying to understand what happened," said DeaKyne, who said she goes out on the 12th of every month to distribute fliers in the area where her son was shot in the Albany Park neighborhood.
Bosley, whose 18-year-old son Terrell, a college student, was killed in 2006 in the parking lot of a church where he was practicing bass guitar, said the group who organized the meeting plans to fan out and distribute information in neighborhoods this spring where homicides of their loved ones took place.
"Parents aren't fearful; they're not fearful of … going into neighborhoods. We want to see these people standing on the corner who know who shot our children," Bosley said. "I'm still out here. I'm looking for who murdered my son."
Many of the parents at the meeting Saturday were "frustrated about how they're being treated," said Tonya Burch, whose son Deontae Smith was killed at age 19 in 2009.
"We do expect (police) to work aggressively on the case," she said. "It won't be personal to them but it's personal to us."
Burch also lamented that more people didn't show up the gathering. There are "so many unsolved cases," she said. "It should've been filled to capacity."
A spokesman for the Chicago Police Department, Adam Collins, said in an email that Chief John Escalante, Lt. Osvaldo Valdez and Sgt. John Pellegrini, all from the Bureau of Detectives, attended the meeting, which they said was "positive."
He also said that Chicago police "investigate every murder, whether it happened last week or last year, with the same thoroughness."