BY SUSAN DU
Homicide Watch Chicago
Cesar Nieves‘ family and friends remember the father of four as a caring, big-hearted man whose primary motivation was the well-being of his children.
During an anti-violence march through the Little Village neighborhood last Friday, Nieves’ girlfriend and 10-year-old son joined community members in a moment of silence at the site of his murder.
Nieves, 34, was fatally shot about 3:25 a.m. May 10 on the corner of West 28th Street and South Kedvale Avenue. He was dead at the scene and several people told officers they recognized Nieves because the hat “he wears every day” was laying next to his body.
His girlfriend, Imelda Torres, watched the police investigation from afar with family members.
“He’s a caring person. Whoever he could help, he was there,” Torres said. “And he had a good sense of humor. He was always making people laugh, even if you didn’t know him. He was a people person.”
Torres and Nieves were in a relationship for 11 years, up to the day he died. They were childhood sweethearts split up when Nieves was sent back to Mexico for getting into trouble in his youth. But Torres and Nieves stayed in touch by exchanging letters and eventually they had a son together, Cesar Nieves Jr.
Nieves also had legal trouble as an adult. He was convicted on a 2001 robbery charge, a 2007 drug charge and 2008 drug and battery to police officer charges, according to Cook County court records. He was sentenced to boot camp and probation in the first two cases.
Despite the legal troubles, Nieves’ family was the most important thing in the world to him, said Torres’ sister, Lucia Arteaga. She remembered him as a funny child who was “always cracking jokes.”
“He always talked about his kids,” Arteaga said.
Nieves’ goals in life were to “be a better father, be with his kids more.” Deep down he was a good person, though not many people realized that about him in life, she added.
Without Nieves, Torres is trying to be strong for Cesar Jr., and the boy is trying to be strong for his mother, Artega said. Both still have a difficult time talking about the murder.
“I’ve been through the same thing with a prior relationship,” she said. “I just tell her, ‘You don’t what, things are going to get easier. You will always remember him and especially during the holidays, Father’s Day… but as time passes by it gets easier.’”
When Nieves wasn’t with his family, he was with his friends and often talked about basketball, family said.
Cesar Jr. wanted to grow up to be an NBA player and said his dad wholeheartedly supported him. The boy’s favorite things to do with his father were to go to the movies, go out to eat at Denny’s and play basketball in the park. Nieves would help Cesar Jr. with his homework, and when the boy’s grades slipped, Nieves would tell him study with the phrase, “Crunch time,” Cesar Jr. said.
But the most important thing his father taught him was “To be a good man and always respect people no matter what,” Cesar Jr. said.
Since his father’s death, Cesar said he now has a second ambition in life — to become a police officer.
Torres said Cesar’s counselor at school told him to keep himself distracted, and he’s taken that advice to heart. But sometimes he does forget the reality of his father’s death. The other day when the doorbell rang and he ran to answer it thinking Nieves had come home.
“It’s not fair that my son lost his father,” Torres said. “Hopefully something happens that will get through to the people and things change. Now I’m afraid that because his dad’s not here, as he gets older how he’s going to react to stuff. That’s why I’m going to try to be closer with him and try to get more connection with him than what I already have.”
Nobody has been charged for Nieves murder. Area Central detectives are investigating.