Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Chicago Crime: Murder at 65th and Woodlawn (UPDATED TO REFLECT TRIBUNE MISREPORTING)

NOTE 3: It's official. The Tribune changed its story for the third time, updating the location to 65th and Woodlawn instead of 56th and Woodlawn. That is an unbelievable typo, and I am sorry for
reporting on it. Here are screenshots of the older story and the updated one for posterity (I didn't get one of the first version, the 61st and Woodlawn one): 

OLD STORY: "56th and Woodlawn"
UPDATED STORY: "65th and Woodlawn"

NOTE 2: An anonymous poster commented that "Actually it was on 65th Street, between Kimbark and Woodlawn. Marlon then apparently drove north on Woodlawn." If this is true, that changes a lot about this crime as it relates to UChicago. The moral of the story is clear: Don't trust Tribune coverage. As the quote below shows, the Tribune claims that the shooting happened at 56th, NOT 65th. Thank you for posting this update sir/ma'am.

NOTE 1: An earlier version of this blog post incorrectly identified the location of his shooting. This has been updated to reflect the correction. HERE IS THE QUOTE FROM THE TRIBUNE ARTICLE
"Marlon Lee, 36, was driving when his car came to rest shot on the 6100 block of South Woodlawn Avenue at about 10 a.m., police said. The Cook County medical Examiner's office said he was shot on the 1200 block of East 56th Street."

The incident happened earlier today, but it took longer for any substantive details to emerge. At approximately 10:00 AM, Marlon Lee was shot in the back while driving in the 1200 block of 65th Street (65th and Woodlawn). He stopped driving at 61st and Woodlawn where he waited for an ambulance. Mr. Lee was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital where he later died from his injury.


Two aspects of this story demand discussion. The first is the man himself, Mr. Marlon Lee. The second is its location just a block south of UChicago's campus (the latter of which is no longer relevant, in light of the location changes). 

Readers might have already heard about this story under a different headline : Former CeaseFire worker shot and killed, or something to that effect. Marlon Lee did once work for CeaseFire, and if the Tribune article is any indication, he still had some affiliations with the organization and its members. It is tempting to play up this aspect of the story, whether out of some sense of stupid irony or an equally boorish sense of sensationalism. Insofar as it is a tragedy to lose such a good man, I agree; his line of work needs to be mentioned. But if it is to tarnish the hiring practices of CeaseFire for employing "criminals", then I would just encourage you to reevaluate your understanding of Chicago's streets.

Mr. Lee's murder probably had nothing to do with his CeaseFire work. Moreover, any exemplary work that he conducted while a member of CeaseFire should not be marred by his 2012 murder. Maybe he remained gang involved. Perhaps he got in an argument earlier in the week. He might even have started the argument and ensured that it escalated to violence. There are any number of explanations for his death, and the police can investigate them as much as they want. But those same reasons that he might have died for made him an ideal candidate for CeaseFire work in life. His experiences and perspective equipped him to handle the lost, young men of present-day Chicago. I

Should you want to mourn the death of a social service agent then I shall mourn alongside you. If politics or dining-room-table ignorance motivate you to criticize or question, then I encourage you to walk the neighborhoods before you run your mouth.

University of Chicago community members have a much more immediate takeaway from this tragedy; serious violence happens very close to campus. It happens at all times of day and in all parts of Hyde Park. The UCPD are not always there, even if they optimize patrol routes and have all cars on deployment. Students will never be targeted by attacks like that against Mr. Lee (unless they are moonlighting by Breaking Bad). You might, however, be present in the crossfire of a violent incident. Awareness and caution can help you avoid that situation entirely, or at least survive if it happens.

Speaking of the UCPD, I am a bit annoyed that we did not receive an email about this earlier today. This sort of attack is exactly the sort of thing that community members need to know about. What if Mr. Lee's attacker lived only a few blocks away? What if Mr. Lee's friends rallied to retaliated against that attacker who lived but a few blocks away? Details are currently sketchy in the case, but if the shooting did occur at 56th and Woodlawn like the article suggests, this is a major thoroughfare through which students travel. UChicago CTA routes travel down this street. I don't want to be alarmist, but that information seems pertinent to the hundreds of students who might be traveling around this area. The UCPD has a duty to inform us about incidents like this, especially given its location.

That said, I completely understand why they did not send an email. If I were UCPD Chief Marlon Lynch I probably wouldn't have sent it either. For one, Marlon Lee was not a student. The people who attacked Mr. Lee probably didn't get hungry and stop at South Campus Subway for a bite to eat afterwards. In that sense, the shooting was unlikely to affect students (although as I said before, a retaliatory shooting might).

Moreover, this is O-Week at UChicago. New students get their first taste of campus life, with its stimulating conversations, awkward parties, rigorous curriculum, and random violent crimes. The last thing a nervous first-year wants to wake up to is an email alert on their second full day about a murder two blocks west of their dorm. The parent phone calls alone would be heard ringing from across campus.

Even as the weather gets colder and overall crime statistics go down, maintain your vigilance. Mr. Lee didn't care that murders are statistically lower in September than in July. If you were robbed in December, you would probably have a similar outlook. It doesn't matter whether you are on the quad or at the Garfield Green Line stop. Keep the same level of awareness in both circumstances.


  1. I heard some commotion and saw police cars headed down Eillis as I was leaving SSA today at about 3:30 - later than this shooting, but perhaps connected. Unfortunate. Thanks for maintaining this blog - it's really important that we're all aware of these incidents.

    1. I also heard about that and got the scoop.

      A student and his family was moving into the South dorm. His younger sister, about 10, was listening to an iPod. A young man in a white checkered jacket approached the girl and grabbed her iPod. He took off down Ellis at a sprint. Bystanders called the police and gave a description. They caught the suspect and returned the iPod to the girl.

  2. Actually it was on 65th Street, between Kimbark and Woodlawn. Marlon then apparently drove north on Woodlawn.

    1. I updated the post to reflect the outrageous and laughable misreporting by the Tribune. Thanks for contributing.

    2. I sent a note to the Tribune, which I think caused their correction. You'll notice though that at this point, they still have the 56th address listed in the sidebar, but the corrected address in the copy.

      Unfortunately, I witnessed the shooting, though I didn't realize someone had actually been killed until later. I thought that it was just two vehicles fighting with each other in some sort of road rage situation. At the time, I thought I heard gunshots, but dismissed the idea because I was talking on the phone while driving and thought it might have just been construction noise from the building being worked on at 65th & Woodlawn. I called the Police, but have yet to hear back from a detective about it. Not very reassuring.

      That's the second drive by shooting I've witnessed by the intersection of 65th & Woodlawn.

  3. I am learning about fact-checking in my journalism class. Maybe the Tribune should do some fact-checking of their own before publishing!