As the city saw its 500th homicide of the year this week, the highest toll in five years, a mother was trying to come to grips with the death of her first-born.
Michele Delashment said her 21-year-old son, Kermit Delashment II -- one of four children -- had recently earned his associate's degree in computer science at Olive-Harvey College. He was preparing to move to Carbondale to attend Southern Illinois University, putting him on the road, he hoped, to playing professional basketball in Europe.
Kermit Delashment, 21, had a degree from Olive-Harvey College and was planning to attend SIU-Carbondale.
But that all ended Monday night after he hopped in a car with a friend who may have been ferrying him back home, his family said.
"He got a ride from a friend on a cold day," his mother said.
Just before 6 p.m. Monday, Chicago Police were summoned to the 200 block of West 91st Street. They found Kermit Delashment face up on the ground with gunshot wounds to the left side of his body, authorities said. A second person was wounded in the shooting.
Kermit Delashment, of the 9100 block of South Wentworth, later died at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.
But not before he and his mother were able to talk -- moments before he went into surgery.
"He just said 'Mom, I love you,' " Michele Delashment said.
No arrests have been made, but police suspect the shooting was gang-related.
"He never was in trouble, never in a gang, never a problem. He may have just been in the wrong place at the wrong time," his mother said, noting her son's focus has been on playing basketball since he graduated from Percy Julian High School in 2004.
He had stints at several Illinois junior colleges, she said.
"He was a good kid who had big dreams, and his life was cut way too short," she said.
"I'm just a mother who's devastated by the loss of my first born. That was my first child, and wondering now if there's anything I could have done to stop it. You always wonder," Michele Delashment said.
Kermit Delashment's death may have been the city's 500th homicide -- the official tally is still being counted.
Esteban Martinez, 15, who was shot and killed hours later Monday night in the Little Village neighborhood, may have been the 501st killing.
A statistical breakdown of homicides released Tuesday by the Chicago Police Department shows that killings of people ages 15 to 19 jumped from 58 in 2007 to 110 this year -- with little more than a week left in 2008.
The near doubling of teenage homicide victims underscores what Chicago Police have been saying this year: gang hierarchies have been dismantled by federal and local investigations, leaving younger crews of violent gang members on the street to vie for turf.
"The department is looking at these trends involving the younger generation of gangs" and targeting them with a newly formed gang unit and the citywide Mobile Strike Force, police spokeswoman Monique Bond said.
"What we are faced with is younger, more violent crews," she said. "There is a proliferation of guns in the hands of juveniles."
What is harder to explain is another large jump in murders of people ages 45 to 49. Murders have risen from 18 to 30 in that group.