Mother blames herself after 14-year-old son shot to death

CHICAGO (STMW) - J-Quantae Riles and his mother and sister moved to Virginia a few months ago to get away from the violent streets of Chicago.

But things in Virginia didn’t work out, so J-Quantae, 14, his mother and 7-year-old sister returned to the Gage Park neighborhood a few weeks ago, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

On Saturday night, he was walking home from the store with a group of friends about 9:30 p.m. in the 2200 block of West 59th Street in the West Englewood neighborhood when one person walked up and fired shots, according to Chicago Police.

The teen was found dead on the sidewalk with a gunshot wound in his back, authorities said. Police said he was a documented gang member. They said no one was in custody late Sunday night, and the investigation is ongoing.

Franika Marshall, the boy’s mother, is a hair stylist and a rapper who composed and starred in a music video titled “Put the Guns Down.” The video shows Marshall rapping and leading an anti-violence rally.

Marshall struggled through a candlelight vigil held at the scene of the shooting Sunday evening, though. Led through a crowd of well-wishers by community activists Andrew Holmes and Willie J.R. Fleming, Marshall sobbed as the men pleaded with the community for help bringing J-Quantae’s killer to justice.

“This is our fault,” Fleming said. “This isn’t just the shooter’s fault. This is our fault as a community, as elected officials and as police. We must come together to save the life of these children.”

Before the men carried her away, Marshall turned to a photo of her son in a light-colored hoodie. She reached out with her right hand. And she let her fingers rest on the image of her dead son’s chest.

J-Quantae’s cousin Evelyn Coleman, 12, said Sunday he loved playing basketball and was a prankster.

“He also loved to rap,” Coleman said of J-Quantae, who was an eighth-grader at Henderson Elementary school.

Marshall, who is pregnant with twins, feels partly responsible for her son’s death, said Holmes, a crisis responder for Chicago Survivors who has been consoling and guiding the family.

“She thinks it’s her fault because he got shot, but I explained to her it’s not her fault,” Holmes said. “She’s totally upset. She’s totally traumatized.”

Holmes said it’s unclear whether the shooting was a drive-by. The teen’s friends ran off when they heard the shots.

Around the time Marshall went to identify her son’s body on Sunday afternoon at the Cook County Medical examiner’s office, Mayor Rahm Emanuel stepped up to the pulpit at St. Sabina Catholic Church in Englewood and said people must speak up and help police solve crimes.

“We can’t live by a code of silence, we must live by a moral code,” Emanuel told the congregation. “Because where there is silence, there is evil.”

Emanuel said earlier Sunday he visited with the family of Kaylyn Pryor, 20, an aspiring model from Evanston who was shot and killed on Nov. 2 in Englewood, where she went to see her grandmother.

“Later today, I’m going to go open another playground, and I want to know: Is that going to be a playground for a child to swing, or a parent to cry? And we as a city need to answer that question,” Emanuel said.

Moments later, in a fiery homily, the Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina, referenced the shooting death of J-Quantae as well as 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee, who was fatally shot Monday afternoon.

Chicago Police said Lee was lured to a South Side alley where he was assassinated in retaliation against the boy’s father by a rival street gang.

Pfleger said he was angry, and after acknowledging that wishing suffering on another was not very Christian, he said he hoped whoever gunned down the boy was living a life of pain and misery because of his conscience.

He urged people to be brave and speak out against violence and those who shoot guns in order to become “game-changers.”

“We need game-changers in Chicago,” Pfleger said.

Holmes asks anyone with information about the shooting to call Operation Restoring Innocence at (800) 883-5587 or Chicago Surviors at (312) 488-9222.

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