‘Work doesn’t stop’ as Evanston mourns slain teenager Justin Murray

Photo courtesy of Allison Williams

Evanston teenager Justin Murray (right) reflects during a community vigil for the death of 17-year-old Darryl Shannon Picket in 2007. Murray was gunned down Thursday near Evanston Township High School.

Jia You, Reporter

Evanston is once again rallying to curb gun violence after its second fatal teen shooting  in three months.

On Saturday morning, more than 40 residents gathered in front of Evanston Township High School for a peace rally that lasted four hours. Community activists Jacob and Justin Blake organized the event in response to the deadly shooting of 19-year-old Justin Murray on Thursday.

Evanston Police believe the shooting was not random and likely gang-related, EPD Cmdr. Jay Parrott said last week.

Justin Murray’s mother, Carolyn Murray, described her 19-year-old son as a “very funny, loving, warm” young man with “a big appetite.” She has been involved in community efforts to reduce violence and helped organize the city’s gun buyback program.

“I don’t know how I’m feeling,” Carolyn Murray said Sunday. “I go through so many feelings and emotions every day, every moment. It’s so real.”

Murray’s death comes more than two months after another Evanston teenager was shot and killed. ETHS freshman Dajae Coleman, 13, was gunned down while walking home from a party in September, prompting community outrage and the gun buyback program slated for later this month.

The city has raised $19,050 so far for the Dec. 15 buyback, which will take place at a west Evanston church. Northwestern was the largest contributor, pitching in $10,000. University President Morton Schapiro told The Daily that Murray’s murder was “horrific.”

“My heart goes out to Justin’s mom,” Schapiro said in an email.

Thursday’s shooting sounded another alarm to the community, said Richard Young, a pastor at New Christian Life Ministries who said he knew the Murray family.

“Right now the community is anxious for change,” he said. “Even those who may have been apathetic in the past are realizing too many of us — sons, daughters and babies — are slipping through our fingers. It hurts.”

Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and Ald. Delores Holmes (5th) visited the Murrays’ household Friday to express their condolences.

Tisdahl said she has been in touch with YWCA Evanston/Northshore and the Youth Organizations Umbrella (YOU) to discuss anti-violence initiatives and will meet with ETHS students for more ideas.

Holmes said there is no easy fix for the type of violence that took Murray’s life.

“Evanston has been working on this for years … but we don’t know what the solution is,” Holmes said. “If I knew this answer, believe me, this would not have happened.”

Y.O.U. executive director Seth Green said his organization will use a $500,000 grant to implement a street outreach program and hire social workers to engage at-risk youth. The goal is to intervene before small offenses “accelerate” into larger crimes such as gun violence, he said.

Y.O.U. also organized small group discussions among its youth members after the shooting, Green said. He added that he was “truly amazed” by the members’ “resilience” and “commitment to making Evanston a peaceful city.”

“As saddened as I am to see these shootings, I truly take some comfort in the community response,” Green said.

For Carolyn Murray, her son’s shooting only amplifies the focus on the gun buyback program she has been spearheading.

“The work doesn’t stop,” she said. “It’s needed then and it’s needed now.”

Marshall Cohen contributed reporting.

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