Kayla Anthony and her younger sister Kayia paced outside their home in the afternoon sun. The girls’ mother sat nearby on their stoop.
Yellow and red police tape hung from cars and trees, and fluttered in a warm breeze.
Kayla leaned against a car, checking her phone. She stepped from the car toward her mother, holding back tears.
Her mother opened her arms. Kayla stepped into the hug, and her mother pulled her close.
“He didn’t make it,” Kayla said.
On that warm Friday afternoon, a 15-year-old boy named Munchie walked alone down Hoxie Avenue, past Georgian brick townhomes that line both sides of the street, and past the home of two classmates from Burnham Elementary School.
On a typical day, he might have peeked in to ask if Kayia and Kayla were around. If they were outside, he would have stopped to say “hey,” drawing out the end of the word.
The three had known one another for years, and grew even closer after Munchie’s older brother Tyler Malden was killed in April. It wasn’t the first death of someone close to the group, but Tyler’s murder weighed heavily on the teens.
It weighed heavily on Munchie — Terrance Malden — and Tyler’s mom, LaTanya Gordon, too. In a city where about 2,300 people have been shot this year, tragedy is often a repeat visitor. The same families, the same groups of friends, sometimes live in a cycle of grief.
At 4:48 p.m. that day, July 10, Chicago’s gunfire monitoring system detected five fired rounds outside the girls’ home. Kayia and Kayla, upstairs with their mother, heard gunfire. An officer monitoring the system used her radio to alert nearby officers.
Munchie fled through a gangway and collapsed in the alley behind the old Burnham Elementary School. A neighbor who sits quietly on his front steps all day watched from his regular perch.
A few seconds passed, and a dispatcher broadcast the information to officers across the city. The patrol district was in a backlog of calls.
In the alley, Munchie lay on his back. He called his mother.
“Mom, where you at?” he said.
“I’m home,” LaTanya Gordon remembered saying.
“I’ve been shot.”
“Where you at?” she asked.
“I’m in the alley,” he said.
Gordon jumped in her car, drove half a block south and turned onto 98th Street. She looked left, into the alley, where her son lay on the ground. A young man waved for her.
“Munchie, Munchie, hold on,” she said. “I’m calling for the police.”
Her son’s eyes were open, she said, and he was bleeding from a wound to his side. His phone was in his right hand.
Gordon told the young man to talk to her son while she called 911.
“Hang in there, man, hang in there,” the man said.
The commotion brought neighbors out of their homes. One neighbor, a firefighter, started CPR. Kayia and Kayla’s mother, Dominique Collins, walked across the street.
“Save my son, save my son,” Gordon recalled saying. “I just buried a son in April, y’all, whatever you do, please save my son.”
Munchie’s hand shook, and his eyes rolled, and Gordon told the 911 call taker she needed the ambulance to hurry.
Police found Munchie in the alley about 90 seconds after dispatchers alerted them to gunfire, according to police radio traffic. Collins said she saw Gordon pressing on her car horn, trying to keep her son alert.
A police supervisor said a white Audi was involved — the whole block saw it, but nobody saw the license plate.
Officers asked Gordon to walk to the end of an alley, where other relatives had started to gather. They asked her to calm them down.
A fire engine arrived a couple of minutes later, an ambulance after that. Paramedics tended to Munchie.
“Please save him,” she prayed.
Collins surveyed the scene and walked across the street to her daughters. She thought Munchie had died.
Gordon waited. She thought of her son Tyler, shot to death a block south in April. He was 20. She thought of Munchie, holding on to life. She waited.
Terrance Malden, the youngest of five brothers and a sister, was born in 2004 by emergency cesarean section. When doctors set the boy in his mother’s arms, he had a slight frown and was chomping his lips together because he was hungry.
She smiled. “Munchie,” she said, before he was named.
The Jeffery Manor neighborhood — The Manor — was their home. Kids grow up together, have kids who play with one another, who grow up to have children of their own.
Gordon worked at Burnham Elementary School when she was pregnant with Munchie. All her kids went there, and teachers knew Munchie before he was a student.
That’s where Kayia and Kayla met him. The girls moved back to Chicago in 2014 after six years in Iowa, a place Collins found unwelcoming. Neighbors called the girls racial slurs and told them to go back where they came from.
Kayia had just turned 8 and Kayla was almost 11. Munchie had just turned 10. The three became friends fast.
Munchie was close to his mother and protective of Kayia and Kayla. He’d wait for the girls at the school library and walk them home. If boys were disrespectful to the girls, he would intervene.
Other students were drawn to him, too, and he fashioned himself a gatekeeper for the school and the Becoming a Man program he was involved in, according to two teachers who knew him at the school.
After fifth grade, he made a habit of checking in on his teacher, especially if her kids were rowdy.
He was silly, a flirt, too, sneaking into the camera frame if the girls were trying to FaceTime with other friends. But to the girls, he was like a brother.
Their friendship grew into one more resembling family. As they grew older, they started seeing friends and family members die.
The girls’ father was shot to death in Englewood just before they moved home. A friend of their mother was shot to death months later. Another family friend, whom the girls looked to as an uncle, was killed.
Munchie’s father died around this time, from a heart condition. Gordon noticed a change in her sons’ behavior after that.
Then earlier this year, a classmate named Michael was killed. He was 17, just ahead of Kayla in school. He befriended gang members after eighth grade and was with older boys when he fired a gun at someone, who returned fire.
They understood that outcome. He fired a gun at someone. But it was difficult to lose a classmate.
Then, in April, Munchie’s older brother Tyler was killed.
On the July day when Munchie was shot, the gunfire interrupted Kayla’s efforts to style her mom’s hair, following a YouTube tutorial, the family recalled.
Their mother stepped outside. The old man on the porch next door motioned — over there, through the gangway. She followed his direction, across the street, through a gangway to where a small crowd had formed.
The neighbor doing CPR. Munchie’s mother. A loud car horn.
Munchie looked dead. Collins crossed the street and told her girls that someone killed him.
The girls, one not yet in high school and the other just having finished her first year, said they felt anger that another classmate was shot. That Munchie was shot, outside their home. That Tyler died, that Michael died.
Paramedics took over for the off-duty firefighter. Munchie was bleeding inside, and EMTs encountered resistance during CPR, so they used a needle to decompress his chest, according to Fire Department information.
Collins told her daughters to go inside. The ambulance pulled away, 18 minutes after arriving, 21 minutes after a fire engine arrived, 27 minutes after the neighbor began CPR and 28 minutes after Munchie was shot.
Collins told her daughters to pray. Munchie was still alive.
Gordon followed her son to the University of Chicago Medical Center. She prayed he would live, she said, and couldn’t fathom living this again.
She had been through this when Tyler was killed. A trip to the hospital. The wait for doctors. Being walked to a small room and told to sit down.
She hadn’t fully processed his death. He was becoming a young man. He earned his GED, stopped hanging around the neighborhood, got a job at FedEx and a second job at a nearby bowling alley.
The day he died, she stopped at a crime scene on her way home from work, just a couple of blocks from where she lived.
She left the scene and went home. She had a knot in her stomach. Tyler was probably sleeping, since he worked the night shift, she thought. Maybe the cramp was because she hadn’t eaten that day. She went to her car for a cigarette.
One of Tyler’s friends found her outside and asked her to check on him. She didn’t want to wake him, but when she checked, he wasn’t home.
She walked down the street. Police told her to go to the hospital, where she was steered to a room and told her son was dead.
So, behind the ambulance, driving to the hospital after Munchie was shot, Gordon prayed she would not lose a second son. She had some hope — maybe they had a pulse, maybe they had stabilized him. Her sister-in-law met her there.
Hospital staff said Munchie was in surgery. Then a hospital administrator told her doctors were ready to see her. She said she felt uneasy — surgery didn’t seem to last long. They brought her into a small room.
“This is not good, this is not good, I done been in this room, one of those rooms before,” Gordon said.
“Just wait, just wait and see,” her sister-in-law replied.
A chaplain and a doctor stepped into the room.
The doctor asked if she was the mother. She said yes.
“I already know,” she told him. “Don’t say nothing.”
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