East Garfield Park teen, readying for freshman year, killed at back-to-school block party

An endless stream of people came to see Barbara Perry Monday morning, as she sat in a wooden arm chair in a shady corner of her backyard.

Lavander Hearnes

“As the days pass, it will get better,” the East Garfield Park mother said — more a question than a fact.

None of the half dozen or so family and friends clustered around Perry offered an answer.

Perry had just lost her 14-year-old son, Lavander Hearnes — shot at the tail end of what had been a back-to-school block party, near his home on West Gladys Avenue and within a block of the Safe Passage route the day before school. Police said Hearnes was standing with a group of people when shots rang out shortly after midnight Sunday. A bullet hit Hearnes in the chest. He died Sunday morning at Mount Sinai Hospital, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

“All we heard was gunshots and then everybody got running,” said Nene Fort, 38, who lives on the block where the shooting occurred. “I went in the house and I ain’t come out since.”

Friends came running to Perry’s home, where she’s lived for 16 years, to deliver the crushing news.

“I’m so tired of crying,” Perry said, clutching a photograph of her smiling son. “My heart is aching.”

Hearnes was Perry’s only son — a kid who was big for his age and obsessed with all things NFL.

He’d played football since the age of nine. He could play lots of positions, but — with a 170-pound frame — he excelled as a middle

linebacker, his mother said. A pile of football trophies sat on his bedroom dresser. He had a nickname — “Fat Shorty” — because he’d been chubby growing up, his mother said.

He graduated from Edward C. Delano Elementary School and was preparing for his first year at Manley Career Academy, his mother said.

“He was our ticket out of the ghetto,” said Perry’s brother-in-law, Ray Hightower.

Perry wasn’t thinking about any of that Monday, as she kissed the photograph of her boy.

“He’s my baby,” she said.

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