About 75 residents of the Dewey-Darrow-Crain area gathered in the Robert Crown gymnasium on May 25 to learn what they could from Evanston police about the shooting death of Craig Ramon Smith, who was killed on May 20 at his home.

Police Chief Richard Eddington and Deputy Chief Demetrious Cook said they would share what information they could without compromising the case they were building: Mr. Smith and two of his friends were enjoying a barbeque at his home on Darrow Avenue when a group of youth from Chicago came to the home. An altercation ensued and Mr. Smith and one other person were shot. Mr. Smith was pronounced dead at his home. Only one person was known to have been an acquaintance of both the Chicago and the Evanston group, police said.

Police officers declined to give the identity of the second shooting victim, whom they said is in “stable” condition at a hospital, but is not able to give a statement. They also declined to say whether the gun had belonged to Mr. Smith or one of his friends or to someone in the group from Chicago.  

NORTAF, the north suburban task force, is working on the case, said Deputy Chief Cook.

Deputy Chief Cook also said neighbors should feel safe from any remnants of this crime, even retaliation. “We want to assure you that it’s safe for your children and you yourselves to be in the neighborhood,” he said.

Neighborhood Reaction

Contravening the stereotype that often accompanies the handgun death of a minority young man, neighbors said Mr. Smith was “one of the most courteous, kindest, most respectful kids you ever knew.”

Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, co-sponsored the meeting with Fourth Ward Alderman Don Wilson. Ald. Jean-Baptiste referred to the culture of violence that is pulling at the youth of this community and elsewhere.

Colleen Kelly asked why the City had amended its weapons ordinance to allow handguns in the home under certain conditions. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Washington, D.C. v. Heller – which invalidated the handgun law in Washington D.C. – the National Rifle Association sued the City of Evanston, saying that it violated the Second Amendment to the Constitution. The Heller case did not overrule cases that said that Second Amendment does not apply to states and municipalities.

Rather than defend its ordinance – even though a Chicago law firm had offered to do so for free – the City amended it to permit handguns in homes for the purpose of self-defense. The Supreme Court is expected to decide in the next few months whether it will extend its holding in Heller to states and municipalities.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, who attended the neighborhood meeting, said she had fought to keep the gun ban, but Council had decided to amend the ordinance.

The police officers urged anyone who sees a gun to call the police. “I appreciate the difficulty of what we’re asking you to do,” Chief Eddington said, “but if you see a gun, call the police department.”

Ald. Wilson said it was important to try to understand “why the person who has a gun feels like he needs the gun. It’s important to get to the core of that need.”

Chief Eddington told the residents that deployment of police personnel to specific areas depends on the number of calls from that area. He urged residents to call the police whenever they see something suspicious.