Dakotah Earley is still in the hospital fighting for his life after being shot three times during an armed robbery on Friday, but is taking extraordinary steps forward.
On Tuesday, the 23-year-old spoke his first word since the horrifying incident that was captured on surveillance cameras. According to his mom who was at his bedside, he asked for water and expressed that he was thirsty.
Additionally, he gave doctors an unexpected, yet encouraging ‘thumbs up.’
"He needs a lot of prayers and there have been so many angels around him," said Joy Dobbs, Earley’s mother. "I said to my mom the other day, ‘he has angelic nurses.’"
Earley has already had multiple surgeries, and loved ones anticipate there could be more.
"I can only thank everybody who has just been praying for him and rooting for him," said Dobbs.
Earley moved to Chicago just six months ago after finishing culinary arts school in Maryland. He lives in Lincoln Park with roommates.
Dobbs said Earley often has trouble sleeping and when he does, he sometimes takes a walk around the block or goes to a local convenience store.
She believes that's why he was out at 3 a.m. Friday morning – a walk that's now forever changed their lives.
Near Webster and Wayne avenues on Friday, Earley was robbed at gunpoint, then shot three times – twice in the back and once in the neck.
A bullet remains lodged in his jaw, but his mom said their biggest concern is major blood vessel damage and the possibility of needing to amputate his left foot.
"It has broken my heart to see my baby like this and what they did to him," said Dobbs. "People have been so generous and just total strangers praying for him. I read one of the messages on the GoFundMe and she said that, ‘Dakotah, all of Chicago is pulling for you,’ and that really touched me."
Earley previously worked for the Greater Chicago Food Depository, where a spokesperson described him as "strong and determined."
"Dakotah is a strong and determined young man who recently worked at the Food Depository, preparing healthy meals for people at risk of hunger," said Megan Bennett.
Earley's mom said she is originally from Chicago, but left in 1998 because of the gun violence. She now lives in Georgia.
Dobbs had expressed concern over her son living in Chicago, and worried it was not safe. Days before the shooting, she said she warned her son to be alert.
"My feeling is how dare they… how dare they try to take my son from me," said Dobbs.
The shooting has stunned and saddened the community.
"Neighbors are rightfully concerned," said Brian Comer, Sheffield Neighborhood Association president.
On Tuesday evening, the Sheffield Neighborhood Association, along with Chicago police, held an 18th District beat meeting at St. Josephat.
This comes as a string of armed robberies have been reported in the area, including one on Tuesday morning. Around 12:45 a.m., three men were robbed at gunpoint near Cornelia Avenue and Broadway in Lakeview, according to police.
"We have to improve the way we’re prosecuting criminals and policing our streets and doing that together with communities," said Robert Benvenuto, community member.
As neighbors work to fight back on crime, Earley's mom is asking that the community’s prayers continue.
"His mother is so grateful to the people of Chicago. She really believes the prayers are as good as the medicine," said 2nd Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins.
While the car used by the suspects has been recovered, there is still no one in custody in connection to Earley’s shooting. Hopkins, on Tuesday evening, said Chicago police are working some promising leads.
The GoFundMe created by loved ones to help cover Earley’s medical expenses has already raised more than $80,000.