The life and tragic death of Elijah Sims is a story that stretches over several city and suburban blocks that bisect two very different worlds in Chicagoland.
Sims, who was just two days shy of his 17th birthday when he was gunned down on a Chicago street on Aug. 29, is just one of more than 500 homicide victims killed in the city this year, one of the bloodiest the city has seen since the drug wars of the 1990s.
There has been no shortage of innocent lives lost during Chicago’s violent summer, during a crime surge that city officials blame on increased gang activity and gun laws that are feckless when it comes to deterring repeat offenders from arming themselves.
But the killing of Sims, whose family made the decision to leave their crime-plagued neighborhood for greener and safer pastures, is among the most heartbreaking.
More than two years ago, Sharita Galloway decided to move from Chicago’s Austin neighborhood for the sake of her children, taking them from one of Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods to the leafy, neighboring village of Oak Park.
“Moving was about making a choice,” Walter Sims told me after his younger brother’s funeral service last week. “It was about putting us in a good school and not having to worry about the extra stuff.”
With about 98,000 residents, Austin is still one of the biggest neighborhoods in the city. But in the aftermath of the riots of the late 1960s on the city’s West Side, the neighborhood was decimated by white flight and the loss of jobs and businesses.