A City’s Loss

This is an absolute shame. Time for the politicians to get their act together and stop sugar coating the situation. It is also time for parents to start parenting their kids properly. The absentee father situation is particularly disturbing to me. My Chicago PD friend says that he can’t wait to retire and get the hell out of Chicago…This comes from a guy that grew up loving the city….

This story is reprinted from The Chicago Tribune:

Last week, as a soft rain fell, Tom Wortham stood on the Cole Park basketball courts across from the home his grandfather built half a century ago.

The 30-year-old Chicago police officer was proud of that home and his Chatham community. But lately trouble had been creeping in — two shootings at the park and gangs on the neighborhood’s fringes.

Wortham, just back from a second tour in Iraq, had settled in for another fight. He and other residents were not going to let Chatham go easily.

Wortham did not seem angry as he spoke with a Tribune reporter last week. Hands in his pocket, he listened respectfully as two older Chatham residents talked. When he spoke up, Wortham displayed a quiet calm but a deep concern for the brewing violence.

“It’s starting to feel like it’s expected in this community,” he told the reporter, adding later: “When people think of the South Side of Chicago, they think violence. In Chatham, that’s not what we see. It’s happened. And we’re going to fix it, so it doesn’t happen again.”

Late Wednesday, Wortham became the latest casualty, fatally gunned down in front of his family home just steps from the basketball courts after four men tried to rob him of a brand-new motorcycle, Chicago police said. His father, a retired Chicago police sergeant, witnessed the attack from the front of his home and wielded his own weapon to try to defend his son.

One of the robbers was killed and a suspect was critically injured. A third suspect surrendered to police by late afternoon, and the last was picked up during a traffic stop Thursday evening, sources said.

Wortham was a three-year officer and a first lieutenant in the Army National Guard. He had returned from Iraq in March.

“That man had strong roots, the family structure. You are not going to uproot that,” Marc Robertson, 48, who had stood with Wortham last week, said Thursday. “I don’t find too many 30-year-old men that have the passion to do volunteer work for the community. It gave me a lot of hope that I wasn’t by myself. … We’re numb, stunned, angry, disappointed and hurt — and rightly so because the unimaginable has happened. He is a fallen solider, a fallen officer, a fallen community leader, a fallen son and a fallen brother.”

Police were awaiting ballistics tests for a more definitive picture of the shootout, which involved a volley of shots from Wortham, who was off-duty; his father, Thomas Wortham III; and at least one of the armed robbers.

Some 15 casings were being tested.

Early reports from police sources painted a harrowing assault that the elder Wortham witnessed about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday. The two had just spent the night sharing photos from Wortham’s trip last week to Washington, D.C., where he attended the annual national memorial to slain officers. He also wanted to show his father his newly purchased motorcycle.

After saying goodnight, Wortham walked to the bike, which was parked on the street in front of the house at 85th Street and King Drive. When he reached the street, two gunmen approached and put a gun to his head in an attempt to steal the motorcycle, sources said.

From the doorway, Wortham’s father yelled at the attackers to leave his son alone, the sources said. One gunman told Wortham to shut the door, they said.

In that moment of distraction, Wortham pulled out his service weapon and identified himself as a police officer, the sources said. A burst of shots by the officer and his attackers followed, they said.

His father rushed to a ground-floor bedroom, returned with a handgun and open fire, the sources said. From ballistics tests, police will attempt to determine who exactly shot the two robbers.

Wortham, who was assigned to the Englewood District, was pronounced dead just after midnight. Wortham is the second Englewood District officer to be killed in the last year. Alejandro “Alex” Valadez, 27, was shot in West Englewood in June 2009.

One of the suspects, Brian Floyd, 20, of the 3700 block of South Princeton Avenue, lay dead on the street. A second suspect, Floyd’s cousin Marcus, was critically injured.

Two other suspects who were inside a nearby red Nissan Maxima fled the area, striking and dragging Wortham with the getaway car, police said.

No charges were filed by Thursday night.

The criminal histories of three of the suspects include convictions for drug conspiracy, weapons charges and battery. Brian Floyd had a misdemeanor gun-related conviction.

Inside her Wentworth Gardens neighborhood apartment Thursday evening, Floyd’s mother, Lucille, tried to make sense of the death of her only son. Her son’s cousin was on a hospital ventilator in very critical condition with perhaps only days to live, she said.

The two cousins, the only boys in their family, were as close as brothers, she said.

Floyd said the cousins went out Wednesday for a night of drinking with two friends. She said it somehow changed into a game of dare over who would rob someone at gunpoint, she said.

Neighbors gathered near the Wortham home all day Thursday as well-wishes and gifts were delivered to the family. Ministers and representatives from the Army also paid their respects.

The shooting sent shudders through an already rattled neighborhood.

Chatham has been a stronghold of Chicago’s black middle class since the 1950s. Many of the families who moved in then have remained, creating a close-knit though aging community.

But it has been on the brink of transformation as reports of property neglect increased and — though the neighborhood was long considered safe — crime has been on the rise in the last few years.

After dark, Cole Park can become a scary place, filled with strange teenagers from different neighborhoods claiming the park as a part of their turf.

“It used to be something to be proud of,” said Wesley Anderson, 44, who has lived most of his life in the neighborhood. “You’d stick your chest out and say, ‘I’m from Chatham.'”

Just last month, after two recent shootings at Cole Park, Ald. Freddrenna Lyle, 6th, closed down the basketball courts.

That was why Wortham and others had come out in the rain last week — to explain to a Tribune reporter about the need to tackle these problems straight on.

The hoops would have to be shut down — for now, they agreed. But they planned to mobilize community support around the park. They’d talk to adults in the area and persuade them to use the park and help monitor activities. And they’d ask the city for help as well.

Wortham seemed confident that the neighborhood would respond and take care of the park — and Chatham.

At Cole Park on Thursday, children and fathers played baseball in the field. Women walked the park’s track in pairs, dressed in sweats and rain jackets. Neighbors waved to each other, and families walked hand in hand.

And later, in a light rain, some 200 mourners gathered to pay their respects to Wortham.

Tribune reporters Matthew Walberg, Carlos Sadovi, Daarel Burnette, Serena Maria Daniels, Kristen Mack and Liam Ford contributed to this report.


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