SOUTH LOOP — Devonta Vivetter was bright and boisterous, his loved ones said at a Monday memorial for the man, who was one of three people killed in a hit-and-run this weekend.
The 27-year-old was a party-loving, always-dancing socialite who could be seen in Chicago’s clubs and bars just about every week. He was alternately a jokester who “played too much” and someone “who did not play” about the safety of those he cared for, his loved ones said.
Vivetter, or “Rack” and “Rayhunna” to those who knew him, was killed in a Sunday morning hit-and-run outside Jeffery Pub, 7041 S. Jeffery Blvd.
The driver, who also killed 25-year-old Donald Huey and a 23-year-old man and injured a fourth man, appeared to intentionally strike the victims, police said. The Sun-Times identified the third victim as Jaylen Ausley, a University of Michigan graduate who worked with disadvantaged young people.
The driver has not yet been found.
Vivetter’s death “brought the city out” Monday night as they honored him with a balloon launch. Each of the 400 or so attendees at Park No. 540 near 24th Street and Dearborn Avenue found a different way to cope.
Some blasted high-energy music and danced to honor Vivetter — “that’s what makes him happy, partying with his family and friends,” said his cousin, Jasmine.
Vivetter invited Jasmine out to party on Saturday night, but she declined. That’s a rarity, as she’s usually down to join in the fun or serve as the designated driver, she said.
Vivetter was a regular at Jeffery Pub, as he “identified with” the safe zone it provides for Black LGBTQ+ South Siders, said Terry Jones, who met Vivetter more than a decade ago through mutual friends and family.
“He was real popular, always living his life, turning up — doing things that, around our age, we do,” Jones said. “If it’s something going on, Devonta’s there.”
Other memorial attendees quietly conversed with the people they showed up with, held bundles of balloons or rested on the playground fence, taking the scene in.
One young man sat solemnly, sunglasses partially masking a stony but mournful expression as he communicated only by shaking his head. The young man’s grandmother did not know Vivetter personally, but she showed up to support her grandson, she said.
Vivetter was “like family” to one woman, who could not be named because her interview was cut short.
“We grew up since Pampers,” the 31-year-old said. “Our parents grew up together, we grew up together,” and the two would — like siblings — always make amends after any disagreements.
“Every picture we got, he’s smiling,” the woman said. In that spirit, she kept an air of celebration as the memorial began, hollering “it’s a throw” as she used her tablet to film others dancing in 24th Street.
But as the woman reminisced, grief over the tragedy that took place just 36 hours prior overwhelmed her.
“Don’t you see all these people out here for him? They ain’t out here for no negative person. This is his family out here,” she said, before breaking down in tears and leaving to be comforted by those around her.
Since Vivetter was killed, “I’ve been numb just thinking about it,” Jasmine said. “I miss my cousin. I miss him.”
As loved ones grieve, people on social media must stop sharing gruesome videos of Vivetter’s death, Jasmine said. Graphic video of the incident circulated widely on social media just hours after the men were killed.
“You don’t want to see your family like that,” Jasmine said. “He’s got nieces, brothers; they’re growing up, they eventually see that. Shouldn’t nobody have to see that.”
Vivetter should instead be remembered for the life he lived, and Monday’s memorial was an appropriate celebration of that, Jasmine said.
“I’m sad about it, because I just feel like, we’re not supposed to be doing this for Rack,” she said. “But at the same time … he brought people out. I know he’s happy.”
Vivetter’s loved ones hopefully recognize how loved and supported he was — and they are — after Monday’s balloon launch, Jones said. He called on Chicagoans to pray daily for the Vivetter family.
“If you love Devonta, you’re going to show your support and love to his family, his friends,” Jones said. “You’re going to come together as one, as unity, as a whole.”
Police Search For Driver
Police are still looking for the driver who hit Vivetter and the other victims Sunday morning outside Jeffery Pub.
The hit-and-run happened about 5 a.m. in the 7000 block of South Jeffery Boulevard, police said.
Several people got into an argument inside the bar, and it spilled into the street, Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan said at a Monday news conference. Then someone got into a car and “commits this horrific act,” hitting the men, Deenihan said.
The crash did appear to be intentional “just based upon what everybody is seeing” in videos of the hit-and-run, Deenihan said.
Footage of the crash posted online by CWBChicago showed a group of people scuffling in the street when a driver in the wrong lane crashes directly into them. The car appeared to be silver or white and does not slow down or stop after striking the men.
Investigators found the car used about four blocks away, but they have not found the driver and no one is in custody, Deenihan said.
Deenihan asked people with information about the driver to call investigators at 312-747-8380.
The hit-and-run is not being investigated as a hate crime for now, though that could change as evidence is brought to light and if someone is taken into custody, Deenihan said.