Updated 9/25/12. On Sept. 22, at approximately 10:30 p.m., the Evanston Police Department responded to a call of shots fired in the 1500 block of Church Street. A 14-year-old Evanston male was found shot and killed, said Perry Polinski, media relations for the Evanston Police Department, in a prepared statement.
The young man was identified as Dajae Coleman who lived in the 1600 block of Foster Street. Dajae was reportedly at a birthday party shortly before he was shot, and he was walking with friends.
Last year, as an eighth-grader, Dajae was on the honor roll at Haven Middle School. He was an avid basketball player in the F.A.A.M. program and the Evanston Township High School Pride Feeder Basketball program. He was looking forward to playing on the ETHS freshman basketball team.
Jetter Gibson, Dajae’s coach in the Pride basketball program, said Dajae was “always hardworking, always upright, always had a big smile on his face, and always trying to do his best.” He said Dajae played point guard and would no doubt have made the freshman “A” basketball team at ETHS. He thought Dajae would have made the varsity as he moved up at ETHS.
Dajae just began his freshman year at ETHS. In an essay he submitted for an ETHS Humanities class on Sept. 20, days before he was shot, Dajae said, “I get a lot of support from my family; they made me the person I am today. My friends and family really care about me, they get me things I need, and they make sure I am always in school. My mom pushes me to do better, she always tells me to never settle. I think the kids that are on the street not doing anything with their lives don’t get the type of support they need from family. They probably don’t have anyone to look to. … I’m very fortunate to have the family I have.”
In a statement posted on the ETHS website, Superintendent Eric Witherspoon said, “Our sympathy and thoughts are with Dajae’s family.” The school offered support and grief counseling for students and staff members on Sept. 23 and 24 at the school.
There has been an outpouring of community support. Shortly after the shooting, ETHS students set up a page on Facebook, “Stop the Violence in Evanston,” which already has more than 3,600 members.
On Sept. 24 a candlelight vigil was held in memory of Dajae at the location where he was shot. Hundreds of family, friends and members of the community attended to express their sorrow and grief. Another vigil is planned for Sept. 29.
Evanston Township High School has set up a memorial fund to accept donations on behalf of Dajae’s family to help defray funeral expenses and support the family during this difficult time. ETHS’s website provides additional details.
Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl opened the Sept. 24 City Council meeting saying, “I am terribly sorry to extend my condolences and that of the entire City to the Coleman/Rice family on the death of their son, Dajae, who was a wonderful, wonderful young man. The entire City is mourning his loss.”
The Mayor is hosting a community meeting at 7 p.m.on Oct. 2 seeking solutions to address violence in Evanston. The meeting will take place at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Center,1655 Foster St. All residents, community partners and youth-focused organizations are invited to attend.
Second Ward Alderman Peter Braithwaite asked the community to be patient “while we are sorting through the details of situation like this. There are many of us that are paying very close attention to what is going on and our police are working very diligently to make sure that we find justice.”
He urged people looking for something to do, to “support our existing organizations that are working to help our kids, such as the YMCA, YOU…, before creating something new.”
Evanston police are continuing to investigate the shooting. The North Regional Major Crisis Task Force is assisting.
Police Chief Richard Eddington told the RoundTable on Sept. 25, “We’re at a sensitive point in the case. We are continuing to make good progress. Any further comment at this time would be