[ENOUGH] Fathers of Murder Victims Speak

John Westley and Jesse Purnell, Sr.

about it, but I did not want to take the law in my own hands, so I said let the law handle that.”

John Sr. offers advice for addressing violence: “You have to give the kids something to do; give them jobs, be like a big brother because they are being steered the wrong way. They wake up in the morning and they have [almost] nothing to eat, [almost] no clothes to wear, and they see someone with something so they go after it. If these young boys had something to do, things would be better.... These kids out there need help; there's a needs  get programs going, keeping them off these streets, these corners.

According to 42-year-old Samuel Muhammad, his son Devin Greer lived with him on the South Side. On October 20, 2012, the 21-year-old had gotten news that "A friend of his was shot on the West Side, so he was going to visit him in the hospital. While he was over there, he said that he will go to his mom's house to visit to give her the good news that he had just gotten a job to work at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). His girlfriend was supposed to come pick him up that night, but maybe she was tired and did not come.”

Samuel stated that earlier that day, Devin performed a good deed by calling the parents of a young man to inform them that their son was taken to the hospital after being assaulted when his party bus was attacked by a group of others.

Then, “He stayed up late playing video games with his brother, and while they were playing, somebody shot through the window.”  

Devin then performed his last good deed: “He pushed his brother out of the way, and the bullet hit him in the back and it punctured a main artery. His brother was not hit."

Samuel received the news of Devin's shooting moments later, around 3am on October 21st. “I came to the hospital and did not know the seriousness until the doctor came out and he said he had passed out, and he was able to be resuscitated. Then when they opened him up they realized how serious it was and he was not able to come back” he explained, while in tears sobbing loudly over the telephone while he took a break in Texas from truck driving.

“That's the sad part, they have a police camera right there on that corner, the police had a few witnesses who said they would testify; they had somebody in custody and let him go. They told his mom that all the evidence points to this guy, but he is back on the streets, never charged for the murder.”

There are some hints for motive: “[Devin's) mother said that his younger brother had an altercation 10 days previous, with a guy dealing drugs, and the guy pulled a gun out; and it was the same guy accused of killing Devin.”

“It's strange because that day is like yesterday, I break out in tears crying, several times. I can't believe it... that was my first son, and my son was my heart. The greatest sound in the world was to hear that boy laugh... I cannot even explain the thought or the feeling going to a funeral saying I am burring my son today. I can't explain it.” Samuel stressed, as he cried.

“We failed my son, and we failed the young man who took my son's life....They want harsher penalties; they are trying to make laws for somebody who does not respect the law in the first place, so what is that gonna do? So instead of putting money in those things, they should put money to invest in human life. They spend millions and billions to build up the lake and make it look beautiful, but they do not build up the people that live in these cities,” Samuel laments.

He continued, “When my son was born, he changed my life; when he died, he changed me. I work less so I can be more involved in the community now. It is time to be more and more involved; it is time to make a personal sacrifice because I have other children. What is going to happen to the next generation that walks the streets? How are we going to address [this senseless violence]? This is now going to get a lot of attention from me.”

Dr. Peter K. B. St. Jean is the Executive Director and Founder of Peaceful World Movement, an adjunct professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at Governors State University and University at Buffalo Department of Sociology, and CEO of Quality of Life Solutions, Chicago. He is also the author of Pockets of Crime: Broken Windows, Collective Efficacy and the Criminal Point of View.