Highland Park’s Mama Shu fights for justice after son murdered while protecting neighborhood

Chinyelu shot, killed in January 2021

Shamayim Shu, also known as “Mama Shu,” helped her neighborhood rebuild and now she needs help from police after her son was murdered.

HIGHLAND PARK, Mich.Shamayim Shu, also known as “Mama Shu,” helped her neighborhood rebuild and now she needs help from police after her son was murdered.

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.

Read: Karen Drew: Even after tragic losses, Mama Shu’s mission to help continues

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.

Rebuilding community

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.

Read: Group aims to bring solar powered streetlights to Highland Park

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.

Read: Highland Park’s ‘Mama Shu’ creates place where neighborhood children can study

Son’s murder

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.”

Murder investigation

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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If you have a tip you can send information to detective@highlandpark.mi.gov.



About the Authors:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter and part of the Local 4 Defenders team.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.