Weekend violence in Chicago claims lives of 2 city workers in separate attacks

By Elvia Malagon, Elyssa Cherney – Chicago Tribune

Darnell Simmons, a longtime city worker, was walking out of a West Side store with his teenage son and another boy when gunfire erupted.

Simmons pushed his son out of the way and then fell to the ground, according to an account from the teen relayed through Simmons’ cousin, Dedrick Wilborn.

“He said he thought his daddy tripped,” Wilborn said Monday.

But Simmons, who police believe was not the intended target, had been hit by bullets in the chest and shoulder. He was later pronounced dead at Stroger Hospital.

The fatal shooting took place less than 24 hours after another city worker, Terrell Jones, was shot dead while riding in a Chevrolet Equinox with his cousin during an apparent road rage incident in the Back of the Yards neighborhood.

The weekend shootings helped push the number of 2018 homicide victims to 100, according to data kept by the Tribune.

“These are the types of incidents that keep all of us up at night,” Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said at a news conference Monday. “And I promise you, we’ll do everything that we can to bring these individuals responsible to justice.”

The city’s 100th homicide came just hours after Simmons was shot. A 36-year-old man was sitting in a car in the 5400 block of West Division Street when five people walked up and opened fire about 8:45 p.m. Sunday, police said.

The city recorded its 100th homicide of the calendar year in the final week of February in 2016 and 2017, according to data kept by the Tribune. At least 454 people have been shot in Chicago so far this year, a lower number than at this time in 2016 and 2017.

Simmons was shot at about 6:30 p.m. Sunday in the 300 block of North Central Avenue, about a mile away from where he lived, police said. He was on his way to take one of his two teenage sons to the airport, said Debra Wilborn, an aunt who helped raise Simmons. The teen, who lives in Texas, was visiting Simmons during his spring break.

The family thinks Simmons might have stopped at the store to buy a lottery ticket. Dedrick Wilborn got a frantic call from Simmons’ son and rushed to the scene. He tried to get to his cousin, but officers held him back from the ambulance.

“He wasn’t by himself, we loved him,” Dedrick Wilborn said.

Simmons worked for more than 20 years as a laborer for the Streets and Sanitation Department, according to Laborers Local 1001.

“Darnell worked, took care of his kids and played lottery,” Debra Wilborn said.

Jones, who was a member of the same union, was gunned down about 10:30 p.m. Saturday in the 4900 block of South Ashland Avenue.

A cousin, who also works for the city, was driving Jones home when they decided to take a shortcut down Ashland to avoid traffic on Interstate 290, said Ernest Leggs, Jones’ brother.

The men noticed a dark-colored SUV was following them. Two men got out of the SUV and opened fire, striking Jones multiple times, Chicago police said.

Jones was taken to Stroger Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. His cousin, 27, was grazed on the right hand.

Chicago police characterized the shooting as a possible incident of road rage.

On Monday, the family announced a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in Jones’ death, according to community activist Andrew Holmes.

“I just want people to know that this was senseless,” Leggs said. “And they need to turn themselves in or speak up. (The shooters) have ruined so many lives.”

Jones graduated from Harper High School, Leggs said, and, according to the union, he had worked for the city for about five years. He was married and had 3-year-old twins and a 9-year-old son.

Michelle Jones-Vincent, Jones’ mother, said her son often ran errands for relatives and was a family man whose children would run up to greet him when he got home. Leggs said his brother was looking forward to a raise at work and wanted to save up for a vacation to Disney World.

“I’m still in shock for him to be taken away,” Jones-Vincent said as she began crying. “This is not just no nobody.”