BY SUSAN DU
Homicide Watch Chicago
Jajuan Porter turned 18 three weeks ago — the day of his mother’s funeral.
Porter was fatally shot Tuesday night in the Chatham neighborhood and his family is now planning another funeral.
The tall, skinny, meek young man had been living with his sister in the Altgeld Gardens neighborhood since the day he found his mother unresponsive on the living room floor against a couch, family said. Porter slept on that same couch until the night he was shot.
Authorities said Porter was standing on a sidewalk in the 7900 block of South Vincennes Avenue when two men approached and opened fire. However, witnesses told family Porter was inside King Gyros when he was shot more than a dozen times while trying to escape the eatery.
Porter’s sister, Tyiesha Nall, said she still expects to see her baby brother sleeping on the couch when she comes downstairs in the morning.
“I haven’t even swallowed the pill of my mom’s death, and for me to get a phone call [Tuesday night] to hear, ‘You need to get to the hospital, your brother dead,’ it was like ‘Damn, I just saw him this morning,’” Nall said.
Family members said Porter’s father was absent and his mother struggled with drug addiction.
Police said Porter was a known gang member, but Nall insisted her younger brother wasn’t in a gang and only associated with friends in gangs.
“He used to cry after my momma a lot, and then when she passed, it was hard for him, but he didn’t turn to the street,” Nall said. “I will say he stayed outside more. But his goal was to go to school, get something done and to show momma that he’s making a better life for himself.”
As a child, Porter was an enthusiastic student, Nall said. As an eighth grader, he had won tickets to Wisconsin Dells after placing first in a spelling bee. He later attended Hirsch Metropolitan High School until he was caught smoking marijuana and transferred to an alternative school, Nall said.
Porter’s most recent plans were to enroll in Kennedy-King College’s GED program and enlist in the military, Nall said.
Kelley Porter, Jajuan’s aunt, said she pressured him to get out of Chicago.
“I always told Jajuan, plain and simple, a black boy between the ages of 18 and 25 in the city of Chicago who doesn’t finish school, doesn’t go to college or join the service, you’re going to wind up two places, dead or in jail,” she said.
Kelley Porter told her nephew to distance himself from gangs and encouraged him to find acceptance from family instead of friends who urged him to post photos of himself holding up gang signs on Facebook.
“My nephew was trying to attach, trying to find somewhere to fit in. He just lost his mother, the love of his life,” Kelley Porter said. “You could still see fear and innocence in that boy’s eyes. He wasn’t an angry teenager, out to beat someone’s ass every day. That wasn’t him.”
Nall described Jajuan Porter as a follower who stuck with his sisters. Porter and his sister enjoyed dancing and he was always the “life of the party” at family gatherings.
This Mother’s Day, the family had planned a reunion outing to Six Flags Great America. It was their eldest brother’s idea for the five siblings to spend more time together since he had recently moved out of state.
“We was forcing [Jajuan] to go because he wanted to stay home, but it was like, all of momma’s kids are going. We’re going to have fun, and we’re just going to go back to my brother’s house in Wisconsin and sit out there, celebrate Mother’s Day,” Nall said. “And now look what happened.”
After Jajuan Porter’s death, Nall struggled to explain to her six-year-old daughter why she would never see her uncle again. Jajuan Porter often played video games and colored with his younger cousins, taking them to the park and letting them climb over him.
Nall said despite the hardships of Jajuan Porter’s childhood, the happiest times of his life were when he could be with his family, when his mother was alive and he was able to stay with her.
“When I say he was loved by so many, I mean it was so, so many,” Nall said. “I don’t want his death to be in vain like all these other deaths in Chicago. These kids need to grow up.”
Nobody has been charged in the shooting, which also left a 26-year-old man wounded. Area South detectives continue to investigate.