By BLAIR PADDOCK
Homicide Watch Chicago
Jervon Morris was an “average teenager,” spending his time playing basketball, drawing, and doing volunteer work, according to his sister, Tiffany Morris.
Suffering cataracts from a very young age, and a surgery-gone-wrong, had left the boy blind in one eye and suffering other vision problems. But he didn’t let that define him, and continually inspired his peers, classmate Ian Boyd said.
“He is an inspirational person, proving he is more than a person with a disability,” Boyd said. “Jervon devoted his life to proving that, whether he believed it or not.”
On Memorial Day, Morris’ life was cut short when he got caught in the crossfire of at least two gunmen while doing what he loved—playing basketball in Euclid Park, just a block from his home. He was shot in the head about 5:40 p.m. and died minutes later, according to Chicago Police and the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
Morris was not believed to be the shooter’s intended target, police said.
“It could have been anyone in the park; that park was filled with kids,” Tiffany Morris said.
Sister Rashawnda Rice was at home when the cops came to tell her the news of Morris’ death. He was known to many in the Longwood Manor neighborhood as “Jo-jo,” with few knowing his actual name.
Rice said when police came to her door, they simply said “Jo-jo is on the ground.”
“I was in shock at first,” Rice said. “Shocked that he was lying on the ground, shocked that he wasn’t living anymore.”
Morris was a ray of sunshine, who “woke up with the birds” and had an old soul, Tiffany Morris said. She said she hopes the community remembers his bright spirit.
“He was so nice and sweet to everybody,” Rice said. “He laughed at everything even if it was corny.”
After graduating from Curie Metropolitan High School in 2014, Morris spent much of his time volunteering at Euclid Park, working with other teens and children in the community.
Even when he wasn’t volunteering, he spent most of his time at the park playing basketball. He had never played in high school or on an official team, but saw it as a way to connect with his sister, who played the sport.
“With not being able to see as much, he couldn’t do as much as the other kids, but he had a passion for basketball,” she said.
Morris also had a skill for drawing, Boyd said. In school, he would draw cartoon characters from memory with great detail. His skills were impressive to the point that teachers encouraged him to apply to art schools in the city, Boyd added.
“He drew on anything he could get his hands on,” Tiffany Morris said.
Morris was looking at colleges in the city, wanting to attend and continually learn, Tiffany Morris said.
“I want the community to remember him not just as disabled and taking benefits, but as an inspiration to me and other peers who didn’t stop chasing his dreams,” Boyd said.
Tiffany Morris said she hopes they get justice for Morris and the neighborhood takes steps to create a safer environment. The violence in Longwood Manor, like the rest of Chicago, is out of control, she added.
“He was everyone’s little brother,” Tiffany Morris said. “If the community doesn’t work together [to stop the violence], their little brother could be next.”