CHICAGO - Donald Huey was back in Chicago for a birthday remembrance for his late grandmother and was anxious to let his family know how well he was doing.
Jaylen Ausley was a recent graduate of the University of Michigan who returned to the South Side to work with disadvantaged youth.
Early Sunday, they were at a bar in South Shore when an argument broke out and spilled outside, according to police. As Huey, Ausley and several others lingered in the street, a silver sedan raced down the 7000 block of South Jeffery Boulevard and drove straight through them.
Three people were hurled into the air and a fourth was knocked to the curb as bystanders screamed, according to video from the scene. Huey, 25, and Ausley, 23, and a third man, Devonte Vivetter, 27, died and the fourth was hospitalized in serious condition.
The apparent attack occurred outside the Jeffery Pub at 7041 S. Jeffery Blvd., one of the oldest gay bars in Chicago, but police said they can’t tell whether it was a hate crime.
"It appears to be intentional," Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan told reporters Monday. "We don’t have any evidence to support that somebody was trying to harm these individuals based because of their race, religion, etc. That can change once we get more witnesses and a suspect in."
The car used in the attack was recovered just four blocks from the scene, Deenihan said. "You can’t charge a car with a crime, obviously. We need to know who the driver was," he said, asking for the public’s help in identifying who was behind the wheel.
"There were a lot of people out there, a lot of people that were inside the bar prior to this occurring," he added. "And we definitely believe that there’s individuals who actually want to give us that information to name a suspect."
Jeffery Pub has been a beacon for LGBTQ people on the South Side, according to Equality Illinois co-founder Rick Garcia, who said he hopes police uncover whether the attack was a hate crime.
"It’s been a place to go and think that you’re safe," he said. "That’s important. People go there to be safe and be who they are. They don’t have to travel all the way to the North Side. It’s a historic place, and we need to recognize that."
In South Shore, "we’ve had examples of this, trans people have been beaten and murdered. They’ve been there through the worst time and they’ve survived. And if this was targeted, that really needs to be looked at," Garcia said.
Huey’s aunt, Tawauna Walker, said the family doesn’t know exactly what happened outside the Jeffery Pub, but she’s sure of one thing. "That was evil in its worst form," she said.
Huey’s sister, Charna Riley, questioned how the dispute apparently got so out of hand.
"Why [weren’t] the police called?" she asked. "Why wasn’t the security breaking up the fight? I have questions that I need answered. I guess it’s a process, so I’m waiting. But I do need justice for my brother.
"And those other [victims], I’m pretty sure their family members want justice as well," she said. "This does not need to go unnoticed."
Riley said her brother had recently announced plans to move back to the Chicago area for a job at a casino. He had previously moved from south suburban Phoenix to Los Angeles, where he was working at the front desk of a luxury condominium building, she said.
Though he loved his work, she said his true passion was designing clothes and putting together outfits for himself and others. "He’d tell me this doesn’t look right, that doesn’t stand out enough," she said. "He would get on me, and that’s what I’ll remember."
Ausley worked at the Gary Comer Youth Center, which provides tutoring, job training, career planning and other programs.
"Many of the kids Jaylen worked with have reached out to express their gratitude and appreciation for Jaylen’s willingness to be a positive mentor in their lives," said Project Love Chicago, which is involved in jobs programs. "We thank you all for your kind words to remind us of the impact he made in such a short time.
"Jaylen was a light in any room and his infectious energy will be missed," it added. "He was an outstanding young man that had so much ambition, character, humility, love, and compassion for his community. He was making great strides as a leader in his community. He had so much ahead of him and so much planned for the future."
Deenihan, the chief of detectives, said police are working with the bar but acknowledged investigators "still have a lot of work to do." Anyone with information should call Area 1 detectives at (312) 747-8380 or submit an anonymous tip at cpdtip.com.