Chicago man ran toward gunfire to help, was then killed in triple shooting

Larry Purnell had been hired to mow the lawn of a home in West Pullman for a big Mother’s Day celebration.

He was in the backyard working around 2:45 p.m. Saturday when he heard gunfire out in the street and ran to the front, apparently to see if anyone needed help, according to police.

Gunmen had just shot two people on the porch and they shot Purnell as he appeared around the corner of the home in the 11600 block of South Lowe Avenue, police said.

Purnell, 64, was hit the chest and died at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. One of the men, Brandon Slater, 26, was shot several times and was pronounced dead at the scene. The other man on the porch, 27, suffered a gunshot wound to the leg and was taken to Christ Medical Center in good condition.

No one was in custody. Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan told reporters Monday there is no video of the attack and asked the public for help.

Sharon Purnell lamented that her husband was killed while "trying to do right in the neighborhood."

"He was just trying to make an honest living. It is always innocent people who get caught up when they’re out here trying to do the right thing," she said. "They really need to get this gun violence into some kind of control."

Sharon Purnell, 61, said she had been with her husband since she was 14. "He was my childhood sweetheart and the love of my life," she said. He loved playing poker, watching action movies and fixing old cars.


"He was a doting father and grandfather, and was the sole provider for me," Sharon Purnell said, adding that he also cared for her mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.

Larry and Sharon Purnell

Sharon Purnell said she lost a son to a shooting five years ago. Since that time, Larry Purnell made sure to take young people under his wing and give them advice and opportunities, she said.

In addition to the landscaping company, Larry Purnell did demolition jobs, provided moving services and hired young people in the neighborhood. "If someone didn’t have a job, he would pull them in to work with him," his wife said.

"The city of Chicago, somebody owes me something because my husband should not be gone, not at all," she said. "He was strong and giving and well-loved. I just know I’m gonna miss him."