BY KALEY FOWLER
Homicide Watch Chicago
Marcel Pearson was fatally shot late Tuesday near his Washington Heights area home just days before his college orientation.
Pearson, 17, and a 15-year-old acquaintance had just left a store and were walking through Robichaux Park in the 9200 block of South Eggleston Avenue when a white van pulled up about 10 p.m., authorities said. A gunman exited and opened fire — hitting Pearson in the chest and back, police said.
However, a manager of his high school basketball team said Pearson was playing basketball in the park when he was shot.
Pearson, of the 1400 block of West 114th Place, was dead at the scene by the time emergency personnel arrived, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
“It’s so sad that he died this way,” said the manger, who is not being named because she is a juvenile. “He wasn’t getting in trouble, he wasn’t hanging on the corner, he was doing something he loved.”
Pearson recently completed his education at Johnson College Prep High School, where he was part of the Englewood charter school’s first graduating class.
“He was the type of person who lights up the room,” the manager said. “He was very caring. He never treated anyone wrong and he was nice to everybody. Everybody loved to be around him because he was so loving and caring and made everyone laugh.”
A friend, who is not being named because he is a juvenile, described Pearson as a class clown who frequently got in trouble for cracking jokes and playing pranks. Despite the antics, the friend said Pearson took his education seriously.
Pearson averaged 17 points per game on the school basketball team and coach Stephen Gilbert said he was a captain his junior and senior year.
“We would play together, and I used to act like I could beat him, but I always knew in my mind that he was better than me,” the friend said.
Pearson had planned to attend Western Illinois University in the fall and saw college as his way out of the dangerous area where he grew up, the friend said. His high coach added Pearson hoped to make the basketball team at the downstate university.
“I talked to him a week ago and he just talked about college,” the friend said. “College was his number one goal. He just wanted to move out of the hood.”
A high school adviser was going to drive Pearson four hours to downstate Macomb so he could attend orientation, the friend said.