Amid the sudden crackle of gunfire, a 12-year-old girl ran from a Marquette Park bungalow and fled along South Mozart Street. A gunman — a relative — took a shot at her and missed. Soon, she burst through the door of a nearby gas station, dressed only in pajamas, begging an attendant to call her mom. When Keshia Larry answered the phone early Wednesday morning, she heard her daughter speak these panicked words: “He killed everyone.”
Police would later enter the bungalow and find a scene one commander described as “incomprehensible.” Four people — an adult and three children, all related — were dead. The adult and the oldest child were pregnant. Two other family members were hospitalized, one on life support. Police had soon apprehended a suspect, a Wisconsin man with a lengthy criminal record who was related to all those killed. Sources involved with the investigation said the man had converted to Islam several years ago while serving time in prison and had a dispute with his wife — one of the victims — because she would not adhere to his faith.
He told police that he needed to take his family back to Allah and out of this world of sinners, a source said. A police report quoted him as saying, “I wish I had more bullets. I wish I had more bullets.” As of late Wednesday, no charges had been filed.
Family members said the suspect had been acting strangely. The wife’s sister, Shirina Thompson, said the suspect had been talking about “going to Allah.” Both Thompson and a neighbor in Wisconsin said the man had fought with his wife in recent days because she refused to wear Muslim garb.
The children killed were Jihad, the 7-month-old son of the gunman; his 3-year-old niece, Keleasha Larry; and his 16-year-old niece, Keyshai Fields, who friends said was four months pregnant. The nieces, both daughters of Keshia Larry, were found shot to death in the same bed.
The suspect’s wife was 19-year-old Twanda Thompson. Family members said the couple were married just weeks ago and that Thompson was expecting their second child. She and Jihad were found in bed in a separate bedroom with gunshot wounds in their heads, police said.
The two wounded were identified by family members as the gunman’s mother, Leona Larry, 57, and nephew, Demond Larry, 13. Family members said Leona Larry was on life support and Demond Larry was stable but had been shot in the face.
“I’m really just leaving everything in God’s hands,” said Keshia Larry as she left Advocate Christ Medical Center late Wednesday. “What is a mother to do when something like this happens, especially by a family member?” Police said the suspect, his wife, their baby, his mother and his nephew traveled from Madison, Wis., to Chicago on Tuesday, arriving about 8 p.m.
Letisha Larry, one of the suspect’s sisters, said her brother had been acting strange, carrying around the Quran and telling family members that something in the book told him to kill someone. Early Wednesday morning, police said, the suspect opened fire on nearly everyone in the house in the 7200 block of South Mozart Street. Shirina Thompson, the sister of the suspect’s wife, said she was told by police that the suspect first shot his wife in the neck and the others in the head. When he saw that his wife was still alive, he shot her in the head, Thompson said.
Darryl Hill, who rents space in the family’s basement, said he heard the shots upstairs, then the suspect came downstairs and pointed a gun in his face. “The whole thing happened so fast,” said Hill, who was not wounded. “I felt my life was coming to an end.”
Police said a 12-year-old girl — Keshia Larry’s daughter — escaped the house and was shot at by the suspect as she fled. Attendants at a gas station near 71st Street and California Avenue — just blocks from the home — said a young girl burst through the door in her pajamas a little after 4 a.m., asking them to call her mom.
When Keshia Larry answered her phone, she heard her daughter yelling. “She was like, ‘Mom, mom. Your brother is shooting everybody,'” Larry said. After chasing the 12-year-old down the street, police said, the suspect kept walking, choosing a route through Marquette Park to avoid busy streets. A squad car spotted him about 5:50 a.m. at 59th Street and Racine Avenue, and he was arrested without incident. A police source said he had discarded a 9 mm handgun but led police back to it.
Court records show that Twanda Thompson recently filed a paternity case against the suspect. He had been arrested in Madison last fall for allegedly beating Thompson, according to records. Thompson had been with the suspect for two years, and they were married sometime in the past three weeks, said Shirina Thompson. She said Twanda Thompson was pregnant with a girl.
The suspect has an arrest record dating to 1995 for battery, drug possession, resisting arrest and escape. In 2002, he was sentenced to almost six years in federal prison after pleading guilty to possessing a firearm as a felon. Paroled in April 2007, he stayed out of trouble for about a year before he was sentenced to spend three months in a halfway house after admitting smoking marijuana, a violation of his parole.
He was sentenced last January for a misdemeanor battery conviction, according to records. His most recent address is a halfway house for parolees in Janesville, Wis., though most of his arrests were in the Madison area. As the day went on and news of the tragedy spread through Marquette Park, friends and family members wept outside the house. Stuffed animals were stacked on the porch and balloons were tied to the railing of the front steps. A yellow sign attached to the door read, “You all will truly be missed!!!”
Friends of Keyshai Fields, the 16-year-old who died, recalled how cheerful she had been. “She was just prancing down the hallway in her sunglasses,” said Shakeitha Myers,17. “She was happy.” Myers said Fields was a junior and fellow classmate at Robeson High School. “Why would anyone do this to them?” she sobbed. “It’ll never be the same.”