By John Carpenter
Homicide Watch Chicago
It was just after 11 p.m. Monday and Kevin Ambrose answered his cell phone as he walked, looking up at the El tracks. His childhood friend was arriving on the Green Line to join a casual celebration – five buddies reconnecting after their first year of college.
“He told me: ‘I’m on the way. I can see the train now,” said Michael Dye, the friend on the train.
The doors opened and Dye stepped onto the 47th Street platform. He heard gunshots and looked down to see a man running through an empty lot toward an alley. He didn’t know it was Ambrose – shot in the back and running for his life - and dialed him again as he walked down the stairs.
“When I called his phone twice and he didn’t answer, I started to get a feeling something was wrong. I walked down the steps and turned the corner, and I saw him laying there.”
Ambrose, a 19-year-old Kenwood Academy graduate who had just finished his freshman year at Columbia College, was dead within the hour.
Police said a car drove by and fired several shots in Ambrose’s direction, hitting him in the left section of his lower back. Ambrose was taken to Stroger Hospital, where he died.
No one was in custody Tuesday, Chicago Police spokesman Jose Estrada said, adding that Ambrose had no known gang affiliations.
Indeed, Ebony Ambrose said her son wanted nothing to do with gangs, and was planning on studying to become a police officer.
“He didn’t even understand the point of gangs,” she said. “He worked hard for his money, and he wanted to make something of himself.”
Ambrose worked at the City Target in the Loop, and saved as much money as he could, his mother said. He was planning on transferring from Columbia College to a community college, so he could complete his general studies classes more cheaply. Then he planned to go to college to study law enforcement, both Ebony Ambrose and Dye said.
His first love, however, was theater and music.
“That was his passion,” his mother said. “He always wanted that to be part of his life, but not necessarily his career.”
Ambrose was a theater major at Columbia, but focused on the technical aspects of theater production, his mother said. He also participated in a summer program with the Joffrey Ballet that included a trip to South Africa, she said.
Kristen Ambrose, 17, said that what made her brother most special was that he always thought of other people.
“If he saw somebody sad, he tried his best to make them laugh,” she said.
“He was awesome. He was a great guy. He put others before he put himself,” Dye said.
Ebony Ambrose pointed out that her son died because he didn’t want his friend to have to walk the dangerous block-and-a-half from the El station to his house alone.
“He was looking out for his friend,” she said.
Dye ran to Ambrose when he saw him lying on the ground. Someone had tried to steal Ambrose’s phone, and Dye got it back for him. The police arrived almost immediately, followed by an ambulance.
“The police asked me to go to the house with them, to tell the family. So that’s what I did,” Dye said.
“I was sleeping,” Ebony Ambrose said. “They woke me up, and there was police all up in my house. They told me what happened, and said we better hurry up, it looks really bad.”
Dye said they drove to the hospital, where doctors were still working to save Ambrose. He was pronounced dead at 11:44 p.m., according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.
Standing in front of her apartment, in the 4800 block of S. Prairie, Ambrose said there is anger in her grief.
“There was nothing about him that said this is something that would have happened. He just wasn’t involved in anything that was going on in this neighborhood,” she said.
“It pisses me off. You think you are doing the right thing. It makes no sense.”
Bobby Ambrose, 41, was Kevin’s cousin. A rapper who has performed under the name Prodigy, he said Kevin talked with him about his dreams to be a performer.
“It makes me sad that the world will never get to see what he might have become, or how beautiful he was,” Ambrose said.
Daniel Michmerhuizen is a teacher at Benito Juarez Community Academy. He came to know Ambrose through Dye, a former student of his. He said Ambrose was recently a guest at his house for Easter dinner.
“How he got hurt epitomizes who he was,” Michmerhuizen said. “Instead of letting his friend walk two blocks alone, he walked alone to go meet him.”