The school community of the 13-year-old boy killed in the Sunday night shooting on I-57 mourned his death as classes resumed Tuesday.
Few new details have emerged about the interstate shooting that wounded three people and killed 1-year-old A-Mara Hall, 19-year-old Nasir Hall and 13-year-old William Smith as authorities remained tight-lipped Tuesday.
At Montessori School of Englewood, students reflected upon “a hole that cannot be filled” after the death of Smith, an eighth grader at the school, said the school’s director Rita Nolan.
The boy was wise and kind, “smart funny” and beloved, Nolan said. He devoured books and loved to wear his sweatshirt hood up, she told the Tribune.
“He had this wiry grin, and he just dared you to play with him,” Nolan said.
The middle school students learned their classmate had been shot to death as word spread during the Presidents Day holiday. Many came back in tears, remembering the field trip they had taken with the boy on Friday, she said.
Students spent time remembering Smith together. His best friend spoke movingly about him, Nolan said, and classmates released balloons at the end of the day. The school director said it was important to support students in honoring the boy before his death inevitably becomes politicized. The kids affected by violence know what’s going on and they should be listened to, she said.
“They deserved to be children. He deserved to be celebrated,” Nolan said.
The school director had an ongoing “bet” with Smith, she said: If the boy reached a certain level in his digital reading homework program, she would buy him a pizza. Another student noted that they saw online that Smith had done his homework this weekend. The students ate pizza for lunch Tuesday, Nolan said.
Smith’s peers looked up to him, she said. The boy’s brother and niece were also killed in the shooting, she added.
“We need to humanize this,” Nolan said. “These are real kids. It’s our job to keep them safe. He was great.”
The Illinois State Police shared no new information Tuesday about what happened as shots fell upon the victims inside the white SUV as the car traveled north on I-57 near Morgan Park. The shooting is not believed to be road rage-related, police said late Monday.
Police said there is an open investigation into the shooting and would not say whether anyone is in custody. Police declined to share any new information.
Community activist Andrew Holmes is offering $7,000 for any information that helps police identify the shooter. The shots were apparently fired from another car because dozens of shell casings were found on the interstate, and police are still looking for information about the color, make and model of the vehicle the shooter might have been in, Holmes said.
“It’s a horrible shooting. You can look straight through the window and see there were children in there,” Holmes said. The activist said he hopes to connect victims and their families with counseling.
Too many babies have been shot and killed throughout the city, he said, encouraging anyone with information about the shooting to come forward.
Chicago Tribune editors’ top story picks, delivered to your inbox each afternoon.
“Make this the talk. Keep this going, about these killers. Somebody’s going to call in,” Holmes said.
The interstate attack should be considered a “mass shooting,” argued Donovan Price, a “street pastor” who rushes to Chicago shooting scenes to support victims and their families. Price was outside Comer Children’s Hospital Sunday night, where several of the shooting victims were hospitalized.
“It got worse and worse as you heard more about during the course of the night,” he recalled. Details were “sketchy” then and remain that way now, he said.
The mother of one of the children who was shot was unable to get information about what happened even hours after the shooting, Price said. The mother of the slain 1-year-old was driving the car and apparently hospitalized, he added.
He urged politicians pushing for various safety measures in the upcoming city elections to center on Chicagoans directly affected by violence. People need to realize that violence is a shared problem, he said.
“It’s not just a violence problem,” Price said.