On Jan. 19, at approximately 9:06 p.m., Evanston police responded to a call of shots fired in the 1300 block of Darrow Avenue, said Perry Polinski, media relations representative of the Evanston Police Department. On the scene, they found 20-year-old Be’jami’n Mandujano-Bradford, who had been shot in the head and torso. Mr. Mandujano-Bradford was transported to Evanston Hospital for treatment, where he died about two hours later.

The shooting took place about a block from the house where Mr. Mandujano-Bradford lived with his mother.

At a meeting of Second Ward residents at Curt’s Café on Jan. 22, Police Chief Richard Eddington said Evanston police detectives, along with the North Regional Major Crime Task Force, are continuing to investigate the shooting. “We have several leads that we are pursuing,” he said.

“Be’jami’n still engaged in behavior that put him at risk,” said the Chief. “There was activity pre-event that led to this, that night. There was also activity within 30 days, we believe, that contributed to the anger that caused the event.”

He said he was not making these remarks to “speak ill” of Mr. Mandujano-Bradford, but to make the point that this was not a “random event.” He added that nothing justified shooting Mr. Mandujano-Bradford.

Deputy Police Chief Jay Parrott said, “We are making progress in this case.” He said that police did not want to disclose details so as not to jeopardize their investigation.

Lori Dube, director of communications for Curt’s Café and a Board member of Curt’s, told the RoundTable that Mr. Mandujano-Bradford had started in Curt’s Café’s program last fall. Participants in the program, all at-risk youth, learn job skills such as computer literacy to job readiness and food service while working at the café. To be accepted into the program, youth must demonstrate that they want to make a positive change.

Mr. Mandujano-Bradford was “strongly looking to make a positive change in his life and he was interested in mentoring others,” said Ms. Dube.

Days before he was shot, Mr. Mandujano-Bradford had completed a food-handling course and passed his food certification exam, which he was excited about, said Ms. Dube. When asked what he would like to do after graduating from the three-month course at Curt’s, he said he wanted to mentor others. He had talked to people at McGaw YMCA to help him move in that direction.

“There’s so much love coming in,” said Ms. Dube. “So many people walk in and want to help.”

Susan Trieschmann, founder and director of Curt’s Café, told the RoundTable, “He was such a thoughtful young man. He was very smart. He worked very hard. He was doing everything in his power to make the right decisions and move forward.

“He was loved by everyone here. People here talk about his smile, that he was doing everything right, everyone thought [Be’jami’n] was his best friend. He told every one of the guys to do the right thing and he tried to help them. His goal was to be a mentor for young men in the community. He would have been amazing. I hope others will pick up the torch and carry it forward for him.”

Kevin Brown, program manager for the City’s Youth and Young Adult Division, said Mr. Mandujano-Bradford had come to the division the day before he was shot, and he was accepted based on his completion of the program at Curt’s and a willingness to move forward with another kind of job growth. “We were assisting him with that,” Mr. Brown said. “He was supposed to report to work” the day after he was shot.

Neighbors held a candlelight vigil on Jan. 23. Funeral services are planned for Jan. 29.

Anyone with information regarding this investigation should contact the Evanston Police Department detective bureau at 847-866-5040 or use text-a-tip by sending EPD TIP with the tip information to 274637 (CRIMES) on cellular phones capable of texting.

To provide needed support for the family, Curt’s Café is collecting donations to help pay for the funeral service for Be’jami’n Mandujano-Bradford. Checks can be made out to Thompson Funeral & Cremation Services and dropped off at Curt’s Cafe, 2922 Central St. or Curt’s South, 1813 Dempster St.

About 40 neighbors met at Curt’s Café South on Dempster Street to express concerns and learn more about the shooting of Be’jami’n Mandujano-Bradford. The meeting was organized by Alderman Peter Braithwaite; Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, Police Chief Richard Eddington, Deputy Police Chief Jay Parrott, and the City’s Youth and Young Adult Program Manager Kevin Brown were among those in attendance.

Mayor Tisdahl spoke briefly. “If I knew how to stop the violence in the community, I would have done so a long time ago. I’m here to listen,” she said.

Chief Eddington discussed the process Evanston police follow in a homicide investigation. He said the department calls in the North Regional Major Crime Task Force, which provides them with 40 additional experienced police officers who, among other things, assist in collecting evidence, conducting a canvas of the neighborhood or possible video surveillance, and providing technical expertise in gathering information available on social media and cell phone records. The police department also has access to the resources of the Northern Illinois Crime Lab, which is able to provide results in a more timely manner than the State crime lab, he said.

The Chief said one thing that has been driving violence today is social media. Thirty years ago, when a person insulted another, a fight might have ensued, but people would generally get past it. An insult on social media can stay out there permanently, remaining as a continual reminder. “That is fuel that didn’t exist before,” the Chief said. “We monitor social media.”

Chief Eddington also said the Police Department has been working to get guns off the street. The Department recently reported taking 41 guns off the street since September. The Chief said he thinks this will help drive crime down.

Chief Eddington repeatedly urged people to report anything out of the ordinary to the police. “If you see something, you have to call us. You have to bring it to our attention. … You know your neighborhood. If something’s not right, call us.”

He said people could text a tip, which goes straight to a 911 operator. He stressed that the software system for the text-a-tip system does not allow the Police Department to trace back to where the calls came from.

Kevin Brown, the City’s program manager for the Youth and Young Adult Division, summarized what his team is doing to prevent violence in the City. He emphasized, “We do not work closely with the police.” He said, though, “We do work on the prevention side of this issue.”

He said his team has six outreach workers who go out into the community to talk to high-risk youth. “These individuals are not the hardcore people, but there’s a whole group of individuals who surround the hardcore people who could be drawn into that life, and we work very hard to draw them away from that life.

“Our team has developed a reputation in the community where a number of individuals who may be tempted to engage in activities that they should not be engaged in are approaching our staff and asking them for a way out. We have an amazing amount of opportunities. We have not only in-town opportunities where we provide paid work experiences, we also have relationships in Chicago. We can send kids to job training experiences in six different states. We have ways for individuals to improve their lives if they are committed to change their lives,” he said.

Mr. Brown said they work with School Districts 65 and 202 and with non-profit agencies in Evanston. They use Mason Park Fieldhouse to reach out to about 50 at-risk youth, and they also work to help provide wrap-around services to homeless youth.

He gave an example of the division’s efforts to engage families. He said they recently held an event with 25 individuals “who were shooting at each other in Evanston,” and they decided to ask parents to attend. Parents of more than one-half of the kids attended. He said parents learned what their kids were doing, and they are helping to stop the violence.

Ald. Braithwaite urged people to call or text the police if they see something out of character. He added that an additional way the City is attempting to control violence is by focusing on buildings that are a location of repeated criminal activity.

Mayor Tisdahl urged people to pay attention to the race for State’s Attorney. “It’s very difficult to get them to prosecute,” she said.

Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...