By ELIZABETH CZAPSKI
Homicide Watch Chicago
When Keyon Boyd was very young, his aunt nicknamed him “Smiley” because he was always grinning. “He was the family’s comedian,” his mother Tywone Lee said. “He was a funny, outgoing person.”
But he had a serious side as well, and was planning to use his education, faith and athletic talent to make a better life for himself and his family.
“He was a young man that I could depend on if I needed anything to be done at the church,” the Rev. James Brooks, senior pastor at Harmony Community Church where the family worshipped, said. He was “just a selfless young man that really knew the value of serving others.”
Boyd, whose other nickname was “Kaydoe,” graduated from Charles Houston High School on the South Side and was planning to study at Heartland Community College.
But he was shot and killed on July 26, 2016, in the Austin neighborhood that left two other teens wounded.
The group was standing on the sidewalk, one on a bicycle, in the 100 block of North Laporte Avenue about 11:10 a.m. when at least two male suspects emerged from an alley and fired more than a dozen shots, according to Chicago Police and witnesses.
Boyd, 18, was shot in the shoulder and was taken to Stroger Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 11:59 a.m., according to police and the Cook County medical examiner’s office. A 17-year-old boy was shot in the shoulder and a 13-year-old boy was shot in both legs, but both later recovered.
Lee said Boyd had gone out around 10 a.m. A friend later told her that some kids had been shot around the corner, but Lee did not know that one of them was her son.
But moments later, Lee’s sister ran into the house screaming that Keyon had been shot. Lee rushed to the hospital after seeing that her son was not at the crime scene, and was initially told that her son was alive and in surgery.
Once she had identified herself, a detective told her that her son had passed away, Lee said.
Brooks said he will never forget the day he got the call that Keyon had been killed.
“It was devastating,” he said, because Boyd’s potential “to develop into something great” was now lost.
Brooks gave the eulogy at Boyd’s funeral, which he said was standing-room only and “filled with love and joy.”
That was Lee’s goal.
“I wanted to highlight the love that [Keyon] showed to everybody,” she said. “People that I never even knew my son knew … came [to the funeral].”
In addition to the funeral, a memorial service was conducted at the crime scene the day after the shooting.
Lee said Boyd, one of five siblings who was especially close to his older brother, had a “bright future” in basketball. The sport was his passion—he played every day, both for the park district and at school.
Brooks also thought Boyd could have gone far on the court. The men often played together.
“He had the height, he had the athleticism, and he just had the ability to play the game; and a great knowledge of the game,” he recalled.
Boyd was also deeply committed to his faith. When he wasn’t playing basketball, he was at church.
“Even if I didn’t go sometimes, Keyon and [his siblings] would still go to church,” participating in the drama and youth ministries and volunteering at the church’s food pantry every Wednesday, Lee said.
After Boyd’s death, the church held a “huge tribute” to him, as well as a birthday party on his birthday, the Rev. Dr. Lynda Swan-McClendon, Harmony’s youth pastor, said. The church has also offered counseling and support to Boyd’s family and the community at large.
And when the pastors decided they needed to do something more to help youth in the community, they started a tutoring program in Boyd’s honor.
“The question is always, when something like this happens, is what will we do, what will be our response? And our response was to start a tutoring program,” Brooks said.
Boyd’s death, he said, “has not been in vain for our church.”
The program, Brooks said, is designed to help children academically, emotionally and spiritually; and to give them lifelong literacy skills. The church brings in professionals from various fields to tutor kids, Brooks and Swan-McClendon said. The participants get a meal at every meeting and receive a monthly $25 dollar stipend if they do well in school.
“[Keyon] didn’t let the streets take him down. He fought back” through his education and his faith, Swan-McClendon said.
Through the program, Swan-McClendon hopes to give the children “a fighting chance out of disparity.”
Brooks said he wants to give the youth in the community a sense of belonging and support through the church.
No one is in custody for Boyd’s murder, but Lee is determined not to give up on catching the killer. She said she knows very little—only that her son was caught in two shooters’ crossfire. One of the shooters had dreadlocks and was wearing a white shirt, and the other was wearing a black hoodie, she said.
Lee hopes that someone with information will come forward. She is offering a $1,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.
“Any time you know something and you don’t say something, silence is always guilty,” Lee said. “If you know who did something and you won’t say it, you’re guilty as well, because you won’t even speak up.
“I just want justice. It won’t bring my son back at all, but at least it’ll give me some closure that whoever did it won’t be able to harm anybody else.”