PALMER SQUARE — When he wasn’t working his day job as a medical technician, Suraj Mahadeva helped people in need.
The 26-year-old taught kids with autism how to swim and helped young Chicagoans experiencing homelessness, his sister Althea Mahadeva said. He was also an active member of Chicago’s LGTBQIA community, always spreading awareness about pride events.
“He liked everything and everyone, and what he loved the most was helping people,” Althea Mahadeva said.
Suraj Mahadeva was killed in a shooting in Palmer Square over the weekend, just a few days before he was supposed to go on a family trip, according to his sister and police.
His grief-stricken family and friends are in disbelief over his murder, which they believe could’ve been a random act of violence. They’re urging anyone with information about the shooting to come forward as the police investigation continues.
“This has hit very hard for us because we don’t know what the reasons were. We don’t know who did it,” Althea Mahadeva said. “The best way to be safe is to catch the person who did this and to stop people from being able to do something like this again.”
The fatal shooting happened around 3:25 a.m. Saturday in the 2100 block of North Albany Avenue, police said.
Suraj Mahadeva was standing on his friend’s porch waiting to be let inside when someone shot him in the head, police and family said. Suraj Mahadeva’s friend heard loud gunfire and came outside to help.
Suraj Mahadeva was rushed to Mt. Sinai Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, according to police.
“I feel so bad for his friend because he had to be there as he passed,” Althea Mahadeva said.
Police would not say whether the shot was fired by someone on foot or in a passing vehicle, and had no suspect description or further information available. No one is in custody, they said.
Althea Mahadeva said her brother was shot in the back of the head, but neither police nor the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office could confirm that, saying that reports only listed a gunshot wound to the head as a cause of death.
“Only a coward could do something like that from behind,” Althea Mahadeva said. “If you saw him from the front, saw his smile, it was so infectious.”
Suraj Mahadeva grew up in Michigan in a Filipino and Sri Lankan household. After graduating from Michigan State University in 2018, he moved to Chicago, a place where he felt a strong sense of belonging, his sister said. He lived in the Palmer Square area.
“While he was still in school, he would come out to Chicago for pride events. The LGTBQIA community in Chicago, as well as his friends from high school, is why he moved to Chicago,” Althea Mahadeva said.
Althea Mahadeva described her brother as a compassionate young man who lived a life of service.
“His love languages were acts of service and quality time and touch. He gave the best hugs in the whole word,” she said through tears. “He was so sensitive and such a good listener and such a fierce protector of anyone who he felt needed help. He was there to help them.”
In his last Instagram story before he died, Suraj Mahadeva wore a Mahatma Gandhi T-shirt with the phrase, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of them,” Althea Mahadeva said.
“In a way, that was the best shirt he could’ve worn because it gave me one last bit of advice,” she said.
Suraj Mahadeva is survived by his sister, mother and father. His funeral is Wednesday in Michigan, where his family resides.
Friends are holding a vigil for Suraj Mahadeva at the LGTBQ community hub Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted St., Thursday evening.
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