BY SUSAN DU
Homicide Watch Chicago
Terrance McNeal was a natural mechanic who loved cars and riding his motorcycle through the city.
McNeal, 23, was shot multiple times early Sunday during an altercation in the 400 block of North Leclaire Avenue, authorities said. He died about two hours later at Mount Sinai Hospital.
Shakina McDowell, the father of McNeal’s 1-year-old daughter Kasey, said her boyfriend had gone to get a gyro for the couple to share when he was shot.
“I got a call from his sister and she told me [McNeal] just got shot, and I was like ‘stop playing,’” McDowell said. “It just didn’t seem real. I just couldn’t believe it. He was always so careful.”
McDowell said coping with McNeal’s violent death is more difficult every day.
“It’s starting to seem real now. It’s really starting to seem like he’s not coming back,” she said. “Everybody’s just helping out each other in any way they can because everybody’s so hurt.”
McNeal purchased a motorcycle about three weeks ago and enjoyed riding it through the Austin neighborhood, said his mother, Tracy McNeal. He talked about going to school to become a mechanic so he could make something of his passion for cars.
She said her son was so deft with his hands that he could take anything apart and put it back together.
“He walked at 7 months. I remember at a year and a half, he wore size four shoes and he was 17 pounds, he was so tiny,” his mother recalled.
McNeal attended St. Catherine of Siena - St. Lucy School, where he met McDowell. The pair both attended Austin Business and Entrepreneurship Academy and went together to junior and senior prom, where they were crowned king and queen, McDowell said.
She recalled when their eighth grade teacher attempted to give salsa lessons to a disinterested class and McNeal was the only one enthusiastic enough to go up and dance with her.
McDowell said she wants to remember McNeal as a father who played with his daughter.
“Every night he came in the house he would wake her up and try to play with her. I would always try to stop him because I would have to get up in the morning,” she recalled. “If she was sleeping and she heard him coming in, she would wake up and there was no more going back to sleep. He really loved his daughter. Really did.”