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Jefferson Park, Portage Park, Norwood Park

Friends Remember 19-Year-Old Artist Fatally Shot In Jefferson Park: ‘She Was A Free Spirit’

Meagan Bilbo was one of five people shot during weekend violence on the Far Northwest Side. Ald. Jim Gardiner plans to host a safety meeting Friday to address recent crime.

Meagan Bilbo's friends honored her life with a vigil at Oz Park Dec. 8, 2021. The 19-year-old was fatally shot in Jefferson Park Dec. 5.
Ariel Parrella-Aureli/Block Club Chicago; Provided
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JEFFERSON PARK — Friends and family are mourning Meagan Bilbo, a 19-year-old woman who was fatally shot over the weekend in Jefferson Park.

Bilbo, of Portage Park, was one of three people shot about 4:36 a.m. Sunday in an alley in the 4800 block of North Central Avenue, officials said. Two men were wounded and hospitalized in critical condition.

About 20 friends gathered Wednesday night at Oz Park, 2021 N. Burling St., to honor Bilbo. They brought flowers, candles and posters decorated with photos of the artist and played her favorite songs. Many also signed a poster for the Bilbo family, writing down memories of their time with her.

Members of the group said they will remember Bilbo as a kind and uplifting person who enjoyed hanging out with friends, drawing, listening to music and dancing at EDM concerts.

Credit: Ariel Parrella-Aureli/Block Club Chicago
Meagan Bilbo’s friends honored her life with a vigil at Oz Park in Lincoln Park Dec. 8, 2021. The 19-year-old was fatally shot in Jefferson Park Dec. 5.

Her sister, 24-year-old Bridget Bilbo, recalled Meagan Bilbo as a courageous and confident person who loved dogs, biking in the city and challenging herself. A talented visual artist, she wanted to be a tattoo artist, her sister said. Bridget Bilbo, also an illustrator, worked with her sister to design one of her leg tattoos featuring a mushroom and a tree.

“That was a really cool one,” Bridget Bilbo said of the design. “I am so glad we got to do that but wish we could have done more.”

Meagan Bilbo was also well versed in computer tech and took several training classes to learn how computers work. Through a Downtown program, she fixed people’s computers and made her own to challenge herself, her sister said.

This summer, Meagan Bilbo traveled to 10 states vending local artwork at festivals. Her sister said she’s glad Meagan Bilbo was able to travel and see new sights with friends, despite the pandemic. 

The two were close and enjoyed drawing and drinking tea together at local coffee shops and parks, and collaborated on various art projects. 

The last time she saw her was at the end of November after Thanksgiving, she said. She still doesn’t know how to feel at the loss of her sister, but hopes to print out some of her artwork and frame it to remember her.

“I still have some Snapchats I haven’t opened from her yet,” she said. “I want someone there with me … so I can record [them].”

Meagan Bilbo attended Chicago Academy High School in Portage Park before transferring to an alternative school for her senior year. She was passionate about illustration and drawing her friends, said Amyia Noble, 19, Meagan Bilbo’s friend.

Noble transferred to the high school in her junior year and knew Meagan Bilbo through mutual friends. They had two classes together and instantly clicked, spending most of their time together in and out of school, she said.

“She was always laughing and always drawing,” Noble said. “I really admired her and how daring she was. … She was a free spirit. I wanted to be just like her.”

Noble said Meagan Bilbo helped boost her confidence. Meagan Bilbo spoke up about her beliefs and wasn’t afraid to stand up to others, Noble and Bridget Bilbo said.

Meagan Bilbo brought her sketchpad everywhere and often drew detailed characters, portraits of her friends and colorful scenes of mushrooms, flowers and fish, her friends said.

Friends and family want people to remember Meagan Bilbo as a bright, smart woman who always looked out for her friends and herself.

“I want her to be remembered as being this wise, beautiful, free-spirited person,” Noble said. “She was going to go somewhere with her drawings; she was passionate about it. She was a good, solid friend. I want people to know she was an amazing person.”

Bilbo’s family will have a funeral for the 19-year-old Friday evening. 

Bridget Bilbo is asking the community and friends to donate to Paws Chicago in her sister’s honor.

“Meagan was a big dog person. She walked her friend’s dogs — she was huge on dogs,” her sister said. “She was a relaxed person, very chill…. She would have been the biggest hippie.”

‘There Was No One Like Meg’

Selena Diaz, 20, went to high school with Meagan Bilbo and called her a trendsetter. Meagan Bilbo represented strength and courage with her pink hair, tattoos, piercings and partially shaved head, Diaz said.

“She didn’t care what anyone said. She would just follow what she believed in and what she wanted to do,” Diaz said.

The night of the shooting, Meagan Bilbo had gone to an EDM concert in Waukegan and attended an afterparty inside a Jefferson Park storefront, her friends said. She and her friends were leaving out the back of the building when they were shot in the alley by an unknown person, police and her friends said.

Jacob Perez, another friend who lives close to where the shooting happened, called Meagan Bilbo a creative soul who was lost too soon.

“She was a people person, and she was there to raise her entire community up, whether that was her community of artists, friends or at work,” he said.

Credit: Provided
Meagan Bilbo liked to draw animals like these fish, which she drew as part of a mural on the sidewalk in summer 2021 in her neighborhood.

In the summer, Meagan Bilbo repainted a fish mural on the sidewalk near Chicago Academy High School that her sister started a few years ago, Bridget Bilbo said.

Autumn Silcox only met Meagan Bilbo last year but remembers her energy and positivity. She said Meagan Bilbo was a good friend who always offered a shoulder to lean on.

“She was very unique; that was the best thing about her,” Silcox said. “There was no one like Meg.”

Friends said Meagan Bilbo was not the target of the shooting. Police had no information about the shooter’s motive or target in the slaying.

Diaz called her friend’s death a shocking tragedy — and a reminder of the city’s gun violence. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office recently recorded more than 1,000 homicides this year, the most in almost 30 years.

“Great people are dying because of the misuse of firearms,” said Diaz, who lost another friend to gun violence two months ago. “Things like that cannot go unnoticed.”

Jefferson Park resident Andrew Howard heard the shooting and was woken up immediately. He said he heard about six shots. Police could not confirm how many were fired.

Howard said he saw officers breaking in the back door of 4804 N. Central Ave., where the party allegedly was held, around 5 a.m., and it was empty. He said his neighbors saw a large group of kids leave the building after the gunfire.

“I’ve lived there for almost six months and I’ve never witnessed any activity or noticed any illegal club activity. … I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Howard said.

Howard said the shooting was unnerving and concerning, and he is disappointed police have not come knocking or left cards at his building to get more information.

Credit: Facebook
Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th) and the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection shut down Computer Planet, 4804 N. Central Ave. Wednesday, believed to be the location of the weekend party.

Public Safety Meeting Planned

Other weekend shootings also frightened Far Northwest Siders. The same morning Bilbo was killed, a 43-year-old man was driving in the 5600 block of West Addison Street when someone shot at his car, police said. He was hit in his head and was taken to Illinois Masonic Hospital in critical condition, police said.

Early Monday, a 32-year-old woman was with a group of people in the 3700 block of North Lockwood Avenue when someone brought out a gun and accidentally shot it, hitting her in the right side of her chest, police said. She was taken to Illinois Masonic Hospital in serious condition, police said.

Police said no one is in custody in the shootings and investigations are ongoing.

“This morning’s incidents in Jefferson Park and Portage Park involving multiple gunshot victims, including a 19-year-old woman murdered, is a tragedy for our entire community,” Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th) wrote on Facebook Monday. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victim and her friends and family.”

On Wednesday, the alderman and the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection shut down Computer Planet, 4804 N. Central Ave., according to his Facebook.

Gardiner and detectives will hold a public safety meeting 6:30 p.m. Friday at the St. Constance Gymnasium, 5856 W. Ainslie St., to address the shootings and other recent crimes.

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