By SAM CHARLES and JEFF MAYES
A former college football player and son of a Chicago political reformer, Xavier O. Joy had come back to Chicago to work with disadvantaged children.
But on Thursday, the Whitney Young High School graduate and former football player at Morehouse College in Atlanta was fatally shot about 10 p.m. near his apartment in the South Side Woodlawn neighborhood, just blocks from the University of Chicago campus, authorities said.
Officers found the 23-year-old Joy in a parking lot in the 6200 block of South Ingleside. Shot several times, he was pronounced dead at 10:23 p.m., according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
Family members believe he was killed in a robbery attempt because his cell phone was not found.
Joy’s father, Ra Joy, is executive director of CHANGE Illinois, a coalition of organizations that is “leading systemic political and government reform,” according to its website.
His mother is Nykea Pippion-McGriff, president of the Women’s Council of Realtors Chicago.
“There are no words to describe a Mother’s love and no words to describe a Mother’s loss,” she posted on Facebook. “He was my light in an oh so dark world.”
Thursday night, Ra Joy wrote on Facebook: “Our family is heartbroken by this tragic and senseless shooting. Xavier was an incredibly creative, funny, and smart young man. We hope and pray for an end to the violence that has impacted our family and so many others in our city. Our entire family is grateful for all those who have extended their love and condolences during this very difficult time.”
Ra Joy asked for his family’s privacy as funeral arrangements are made.
Majoring in political science and playing defensive back on the football team at Morehouse, Xavier Joy said on the college’s athletics page his “chief ambition” was “to give back to my community and provide for my family.”
He did so by leaving school after a year to return to volunteer work. He had previously served City Year Chicagos’s AmeriCorps, a volunteer network, where he worked teaching and mentoring less fortuante students in Chicago and Evanston.
In a statement posted on Facebook, City Year wrote: “The entire City Year community joins the family and friends of Xavier Joy in mourning his tragic death and celebrating his short but impactful life. Xavier served as a City Year Chicago AmeriCorps member in 2014, and dedicated his time and energy to making his community stronger by serving the students of Chalmers School of Excellence in the North Lawndale community.
“At City Year, Xavier exemplified the sense of idealism and optimism for the future, as well as a dedication to service and to the children of Chicago. This senseless tragedy is an unspeakable loss for his family, his community, and the entire City Year family. We remain dedicated to being part of the solution in ending these acts of violence and ask that everyone join us in celebrating the service that thousands of young adults like Xavier contribute to making the world a better place.”
Social media was flooded with condolences to the family and remembrances of Xavier, with a friend of writing on Facebook, “He wanted to help the community! How great and noble that was!! Gun Violence took his life! But it cannot take this positive example he set for us all!!! GET INVOLVED!!! Help us end this carnage on the streets!!”
In a statement issued Friday afternoon, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush decried Xavier Joy’s shooting, saying: “We deserve better. We are better.”
“Words are too insufficient for the loss of life taking place in our city, Chicago. I am truly heartbroken to learn that my dear friend, Nykea Pippion-McGriff, lost her son, Xavier Joy,” Rush said. “As the parent of a son who was also killed by gun violence, I can empathize with Nykea’s family and all the families across my district and the Nation who have experienced this tragedy. No parent should have to experience a loss such as this.”
“Xavier recently returned home to serve his community,” Rush added. “He was the type of young man that we all want our children to grow up to be and his life was taken while doing something so many Americans take for granted every day: returning home from work.”
“We are deeply grateful for the outpouring of love and support that we have received in the aftermath of our tragic loss,” Pippion-McGriff wrote on Facebook. “The celebration of the life of our son will be held on Friday, June 16th, at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, located at 5850 South Woodlawn Ave, Chicago, IL 60637. Visitation to begin at 11 a.m. and services at noon. We hope that you will join us in honoring the memory of Xavier O. Joy.”
A GoFundMe page set up to help with funeral and investigation expenses had already raised over $20,000 in just 5 hours Monday morning.
“His untimely death is a true loss to our city, which is so in need of young men determined to make a positive difference,” the page author wrote.