Mama Shu has been working to rebuild her community and make it safer after her 2-year-old son, Jakobi Ra, was killed by a hit-and-run driver in 2007. In January of last year, her son Chinyelu, 23, was murdered while keeping an eye on the neighborhood.
Mama Shu is speaking out after Chinyelu’s murder. She said she is frustrated that police won’t do more in the murder investigation. She wants answers. She said her statements to police have been lost numerous times.
Avalon Street in Highland Park is a place that’s seen new life lately, and that is because of the work Mama Shu has done. She’s been called a pioneer in her community and plays an active role in making things better for others.
The 56-year-old has been slowly buying up vacant homes and turning them into solutions for the neighborhood. One home was turned into a homework house for kids in the neighborhood. Martial arts classes are also held there. The land she purchased on Avalon Street is used for an outdoor summer camp so inner-city kids can get the feel of going away to camp.
More than a decade ago, elected officials in Highland Park opted to remove 1,000 streetlights. The decision was made because the city was facing a $4 million electric bill that required $60,000 monthly payments, according to NBC News.
“It was sad to see the poles on the trucks just being taken away,” Mama Shu said.
Those lights are being replaced with solar lights paid for with money Mama Shu worked hard to raise.
“The lighting helps people feel a little bit safer,” Mama Shu said.
Despite all the good she did for her neighbors, Mama Shu couldn’t stop the violence and crime from targeting Chinyelu.
Chinyelu was killed at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 26, 2021. He was parked in his car in a grassy lot, facing his mother’s home, and was keeping an eye out for crime. Someone went up to his car and shot him. Chinyelu died at the scene.
“I heard the gunshots,” Mama Shu said. “I ran outside on the porch and I looked over and just yelled Chin’s name several times.”
Mama Shu said she saw two men by her son’s car. One just stared her down for a couple of seconds and then both men took off running in the dark.
“I saw Chinyelu laying in the doorway and I just knew he was gone,’ Mama Shu said. “I just can’t sit around here and I have to get to the bottom of this.”
Mama Shu said the lot where her son was killed was not taped off and was not treated as a crime scene. Shell casings were left where he was murdered. She feels her son’s death is not being treated as a priority.
She has tried to do her own detective work and has made numerous calls to Highland Park police to get updates on her son’s case. She does not know the status of the case and has not been able to get information from police. She said police told her they lost her statement.
Local 4′s Karen Drew made several requests to sit down with the Highland Park police chief to talk about the case. The chief would not agree to an interview.
“Along with other Highland Park folks who have lost their loved ones, and who, you know, want something to happen and they want answers. I guess I feel like them,” Mama Shu said.
After Local 4 started pressuring Highland Park police on Chinyelu’s murder, they did invite Mama Shu to their department last week so she could issue another statement and talk about the case. She said she was told they are still gathering information.
Chinyelu’s car was not towed away by police for days. Mama Shu fears there could have been fingerprints and other clues missed. She is expecting to get another update from investigators in two weeks.
“We won’t let that kind of stuff happen in our neighborhood,” Mama Shu said. “It’s unacceptable in our city.”
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