Student shot to death: Chicago Vocational Career Academy student fatally shot outside home
by Kristen Mack and Azam Ahmed (Chicago Tribune)
October 29, 2009
GeRod Thomas went out of his way to avoid trouble, often staying inside when he was at his Bronzeville home.
Yet violence found him on his front lawn Tuesday night when he was gunned down in what police believe was a gang-related drive-by shooting.
Thomas, 18, was shot within a minute of stepping outside, his family and police said. Three girls whom Thomas had just met that afternoon fled the scene.
Thomas’ grandmother, DeLois, 72, raised him from birth and said the teenager was not involved in gangs.
“He didn’t run the streets,” she said. “He didn’t go nowhere but to school and back home. He didn’t get in trouble.”
Thomas was a junior at Chicago Vocational Career Academy.
Like most teenagers, Thomas moved slowly in the morning. His grandmother would wake him up by 6:30 a.m. to give him enough time to take a Red Line train to 87th Street and catch a bus the rest of the way to school. He was often late for his 8 a.m. shop class because his commute took 40 minutes.
His close-knit extended family called Thomas “Poppy” because of his large eyes. He loved skating rinks, gliding by girls and showing off his dexterity.
Thomas’ sister Margaret, 26, said they would “watch TV together in separate rooms.” The two would laugh and shout from their respective bedrooms while watching the same sitcom or movie comedy. “He always made me laugh,” his sister said. “I wouldn’t go nowhere without him.”
The Thomases spent most of their lives in Bronzeville until the Chicago Housing Authority closed their public housing complex a few years ago. They stayed at a CHA scattered-site property in Englewood until February, when they moved into Legends South, a CHA mixed-income property in Bronzeville.
“We were comfortable down here,” his sister said. “We knew everybody from State to Lake. When we moved back, it wasn’t the same. I don’t feel good hanging outside.”
Thomas’ neighborhood high school is Phillips, where there were 122 violent incidents last school year, a 22 percent increase from the year before. Chicago Vocational, whose student population is more than twice as large, had 494 violent incidents last year, a 2 percent drop from the year before. Yet Thomas felt safer there because he could blend in, his family said.
School officials said Thomas had little disciplinary trouble, though his attendance was spotty last school year. This year his attendance improved, and Thomas was in school Tuesday.