'They killed a superhero': Family, Glenbrook coach remember Northbrook teen
Michael Cooper can't bring himself to read all the letters and cards left at his family's home in Northbrook.
It's too soon. His grief is too raw.
So, at the front door is a table and a guest book for mourners to leave tributes for his stepson, Miles Thompson, who meant many things to many people.
A popular student at Glenbrook North High School. A protective friend and big brother. An all-conference football player. A workhorse who earned a full-ride scholarship to St. Ambrose University in Iowa.
"Everything he ever did, once he made up his mind, there was nothing you could do to stop him," Cooper said.
Thompson, 18, drove from their house Wednesday night to visit his dad in Chicago's Austin neighborhood. He was found fatally shot in an alley behind his dad's house Thursday morning, family and police said.
Investigators have told his family that surveillance video appeared to show three people get out of a car and shoot him, Cooper said. His youngest brother discovered his body, Cooper said. The teen's car wasn't stolen.
"You can't make rhyme or reason of this. You can't," Cooper said. "They killed a superhero. To this community, my son was a superhero. To us, he was a superhero. You, as a parent, would dream to have a kid like this.
"All of my kids are that way, but he was the oldest, and he carried himself in such a fashion. I wasn't that mature at 18. I looked up to him because he was such a good kid."
His family moved to Northbrook from Forest Park when Thompson was in eighth grade. He had to adjust to a new school and make new friends, but he didn't let the transition hold him back.
"He never was down and out," Cooper said. "He was always giving people inspiration by being positive, and his friends loved him."
Thompson started football at Glenbrook North with little fanfare, coming to the sport as a freshman and a late bloomer.
"He had never played football in his life, other than throwing a football in the yard with me," Cooper said.
Thompson had to learn the hard way. He didn't play much his junior year, hampered by injury. But by senior year, he had transformed his 5-foot-10-inch, 280-pound frame, growing into a 6-foot-5-inch, 235-pound defensive end for the Spartans.
"His junior year, unfortunately, he was behind two of the best pass rushers we had in school history, so he was fighting for reps and he was banged up," Glenbrook North coach Matt Purdy said. "But that never stopped him, and what he did with himself from his junior year to his senior year was amazing. And that's why he drew college attention, because of his work ethic."
Thompson pushed himself in the weight room. He was a sponge, "extremely coachable," eager to always improve, Purdy said. It's part of what earned him the title of defensive MVP his senior season in 2019.
"Even players that were Division I recruits, he just dominated them," Cooper said.
And yet the Class of 2020 graduate had only scratched the surface of his football talent, Purdy said.
"He hadn't even come close to his abilities on the football field," he said. "And St. Ambrose took that shot at him and offered him the opportunity to play there."
COVID-19 derailed the St. Ambrose season, so Thompson deferred his freshman year and worked full time. He had a job at a car wash and an entrepreneurial mind, planning to start a trucking and logistics company, his stepdad said.
"He worked that entire time diligently every day," Cooper said. "This kid, he went to work holidays. He was totally about his goals."
Chicago police, meanwhile, on Saturday released no new details about his killing. Authorities said they were called to the 0-100 block of North Mayfield Avenue just after 7 a.m. Thursday and found Thompson with a gunshot wound to his chest. Police said it was unknown when he was shot. He was driving a Genesis G80.
"He didn't know anybody on the West Side," Cooper said. "He was only there visiting his father."
Since the teen's killing, the Northbrook community has rallied around his family, with flowers and meals dropped off at their house. Services have not yet been announced.
"He was a good kid," Cooper said, "and he was trying to do good things."