'Everybody's in shock': Bullet from passing SUV cuts short life of talented 14-year-old artist
A talented artist who was looking forward to his junior high school graduation and a trip with classmates to Navy Pier, 14-year-old Erick Alfaro was walking with a friend Wednesday night near Des Plaines when his promising life was cut short by a bullet from a passing SUV.
At about 7:15 p.m., Cook County sheriff's police said, the teen was struck by multiple shots fired from a dark-colored SUV as he and another juvenile strolled on the 400 block of West Touhy Avenue. The Cook County medical examiner's office said the boy died from a gunshot wound to the head and ruled his death a homicide.
Sheriff's police said Thursday there is no new information about their ongoing investigation into the killing.
As investigators worked the crime scene Thursday and friends paid tribute by creating a memorial just a few feet away, Erick's family shared their grief at their home.
His 20-year-old brother, Christian Alfaro, said Erick enjoyed playing soccer and creating art.
"I guess he expressed his emotions through art, because our dad passed away when he was really young," he said. "And as he got older, he started expressing it more and started doing drawings."
He said his brother was attracted to Japanese culture, including anime and manga art, and was known on occasion to wear a collared shirt and tie to school.
"He said he either wanted to open his own clothing line or work in a motorcycle shop," Christian Alfaro said. "He was like a mini of my dad, the way he acted and talked."
Blackhawk Estates residents who live near the shooting scene described the neighborhood Thursday as a safe community.
"I've never seen anything like this," said Erasmo Martinez, a 12-year resident. "Everybody's in shock. I cannot believe what happened."
But Christian Alfaro said the safe atmosphere seems to be waning.
"Sometimes, I used to walk (through) here like at 2 a.m., and nothing (would happen)," he said. "Now my brother and his friends can't even go outside without getting shot."
Officials in Elk Grove Township Elementary District 59 confirmed Thursday that Erick was an eighth-grade student at Grove Junior High School in Elk Grove.
"We will have grief counselors and supports available for students throughout the next two weeks to support those in need," Principal John Harrington and Superintendent Terri Bresnahan wrote in a letter to the school community. "We encourage parents to discuss loss and grief with your children, and we have provided additional resources ... on how to speak with children about the passing of a peer."
Blackhawk Estates resident Eric Dubrock described Erick Alfaro as a good person who wasn't involved in any trouble.
"No gangs. No violence. None of that stuff," said Dubrock. "He would always come out here and play soccer with the other kids."
Giovanni Calles, a fellow eighth-grader at Grove Junior High School, was a friend of the slain teen. His home faces the scene of Wednesday night's shooting.
"He was really into art," he said. "He was really good at it."
Giovanni said he heard two loud bangs Wednesday night and thought they were vehicle noise, but then his mother heard screaming.
"And it was (the) teenager that was walking with Erick. And then we saw Erick's body," he said.
A GoFundMe account online fundraiser has been created to help the Alfaro family at www.gofundme.com/f/7e5n8n-helping-the-alfaro-family. As of Thursday evening, it had raised more than $10,000, after setting an initial goal of $5,000.
"He was a sweet, funny, and smart kid who had his whole life ahead of him," organizers of the fundraiser wrote, adding that Erick's death comes just a couple of years after the passing of his father.
"These are good people who are going through a very difficult time and need our help," organizers wrote.