PILSEN — Family and neighbors are asking for more resources to stop violence in Pilsen after a “senseless and inexplicable” Friday shooting left a 28-year-old man dead outside his home.
At 6:22 p.m., Michael Hernandez, 28, was sitting in his car outside his home on West 23rd Place between South Oakley and South Western avenues when someone pulled up in a a two-toned Subaru hatchback and shot him multiple times, police said.
He was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital in critical condition and was later pronounced dead.
In an email obtained by Block Club, 10th District Police Cmdr. William Betancourt said the shooting was likely related to a gang feud. Betancourt and Hernandez’s family said he had no gang affiliations or criminal history.
It’s unclear why or if Hernandez was targeted.
“… [He] may have been targeted because of the area where he resides,” Betancourt wrote to. Ald. Byron Sigcho Lopez (25th).
Jadira Hernandez, Michael Hernandez’s older sister, said the shooting came as a tremendous shock to their family and neighbors, rocking the tight-knit block where “everyone looks out for each other.”
Michael Hernandez’s younger sister, Veronica Hernandez, said nothing like this has happened on their street before.
The Hernandez family has lived in their home on West 23rd Place for about 15 years. All three siblings grew up in Pilsen and attended Pickard Elementary School and Benito Juarez High School.
Michael Hernandez was working at University of Illinois at Chicago but had plans to take a police entrance exam Saturday, the day after he was killed, his family said.
Jadira Hernandez said her brother was ambitious. “[He was] the type of person who was always asking, ‘What’s next?’”
“I was just so proud of him,” she said. “He was my daughter’s hero, and now she’s telling people he’s her guardian angel.”
Veronica Hernandez said her brother “couldn’t stop setting goals for himself.” After getting his motorcycle license, he set out to get his CDL — a license to drive semi-trucks. He joked to his sister about getting a pilot’s license next.
Jadira Hernandez said she wants justice for her brother and for the other people who have been killed in shootings in the neighborhood.
“There are a lot of innocent people who have been taken,” she said. “It sucks what the community is turning into. Things are getting out of control.”
‘Everyone Deserves A Place They Are Safe’
Liliana Scales has lived next door to the Hernandezes on West 23rd Place since 2014. She described it as a nice, quiet block with families.
Unfortunately, “senseless and inexplicable” shootings like what happened to Michael Hernandez are becoming too common in the area, Scales said.
“So many of us are desensitized,” Scales said. “But everyone deserves a place where they are safe.”
Miguel Chacon has lived on the block for about 15 years. Friday’s shooting happened right outside his house while his three children were in the living room.
In video captured by Chacon’s surveillance camera, neighbors pour out into the street after the shooting. One of Michael Hernandez’s sister’s cries out: “Michael!”
“I just feel really defeated,” Chacon said. “I don’t want to put my kids through this.”
Chacon, who grew up in Little Village, said his kids are scared and are now sleeping in his bedroom at night.
“They are now afraid to use the front door of their own house. … As a father, nothing is more important to me than my kid’s safety and living here makes me feel like I’m literally putting their lives in danger.”
Chacon grew up in “a tough neighborhood” and experienced violence firsthand, “but I cannot have this be my kid’s future,” he said.
“I think of how many kids won’t grow up at all because we have accepted violence as the norm,” Chacon said.
Michael Hernandez’s death is the most recent in a thread of violence in Pilsen that has left neighbors frustrated over a perceived lack of a plan to combat violence and crime. After a series of shootings near Picard Elementary School last year, neighbors begged city leaders more resources.
Scales said she’s frustrated the neighborhood doesn’t get the attention and resources it deserves.
“How are we supposed to know there’s a gang war going on?” she said. “We just don’t know what to do.”
Jadira and Veronica Hernandez said they want more surveillance and police patrols, but also said there are a lot of police officers in the area and they can only do so much.
In the email to Sigcho-Lopez, Bettancourt wrote police “have a plan in place to hopefully prevent further violence and tragedy such as this from occurring again.” But he didn’t elaborate on what that plan is.
Sigcho-Lopez, Pilsen’s alderman, said he was in talks with 10th and 12th Police District leaders all weekend. He wants to have a meeting for residents or have a community alert sent, but he’s waiting for a definitive response from police.
Sigcho-Lopez said the city needs to invest in communities more. He said he’s working to get more resources allocated to mental health clinics and alternative high schools, in addition to working with the University of Chicago’s Crime Lab to pinpoint where crime is happening and how to better address it.
“We have to look at the city as a whole [for violence prevention], and the city has not done a good job,” Sigcho-Lopez said.
Chacon said he’s hopeful Sigcho-Lopez will continue working to address the neighborhood’s concerns and take action, but he’s wary of being too optimistic.
“When the leadership seems like it’s not taking meaningful action, what am I supposed to do?” Chacon said. “I just don’t see it getting any better.”
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