CHICAGO — Troy Laird used a water bottle from a friend to wash his bloody hands outside the Morse “L” station in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood.
The glass door of the station was shattered from a drive-by shooting that killed a man Tuesday night. Inside was Laird’s T-shirt he had used to try to save the man’s life.
“I was compressing one of his bullet wounds while a cop was giving chest compressions,” Laird said. “I’ve never been around gunshots that close in the city.”
Told the victim, Joel Jenkins, later died at a hospital, he said, “I suspected as much.” He was the same age as Laird, 26.
Laird said he was in Chicago to visit a childhood friend from Pittsburgh. They were sitting on a platform bench waiting for a southbound train about 6 p.m. when they heard five gunshots beneath them. They saw people scatter and a black Infiniti SUV speed down Glenwood Avenue, then come back around to Morse Avenue and turn south on Sheridan Road.
A squad car on a nearby block chased it but a supervisor terminated the pursuit, according to police radio traffic. The police car made a U-turn on Sheridan and headed back to the scene, a neighbor said.
Laird, his friend Michael Robinson and another friend headed down the steps to the mezzanine level. They saw a man in a black jacket on the ground on the other side of the turnstiles and a young woman next to him crying, “Please, no,” and breathing into his mouth.
Laird said he threw down the bag he had packed for a Lincoln Park hostel that night and rushed to help the man. He had taken an EMT training course but this was the first time he put it to use.
“I just never thought it would’ve happened in front of a station in daylight,” he said.
He performed CPR on the man until an officer tagged him off. Then he took off his shirt and held it to man’s bleeding abdomen. The man also appeared to have been shot in the chest, Laird said. Another good Samaritan held the man’s head.
Laird said not much was running through his head. He just tried to help the man.
Paramedics arrived and took over, eventually taking the man out on a stretcher, one paramedic holding the man’s chest. The man was taken to St. Francis Hospital in Evanston, where he was pronounced dead at 6:58 p.m. The Cook County medical examiner’s office said Jenkins was from the South Shore neighborhood.
As officers marked off the scene, Laird grabbed another shirt from his overnight bag. “I know that s--- happens (in Chicago),” he said, “but I didn’t expect to be directly above it.”
His friend Robinson, 27, said he moved to Rogers Park, on the city’s Far North Side, from Pittsburgh last August to attend Loyola University Chicago and study cybersecurity. “I’m not going to tell my mom about it. I knew Chicago wasn’t the safest place,” he said. “If we were three minutes a little later, we could’ve been there with him.”
Alan Thies, 44, was on his daily walk on Morse to the lake when he heard the gunshots behind him and started to walk back toward the station. But he had second thoughts and turned around. He eventually headed back to see what happened.
He has lived in the area for more than five years. At the scene, he thought about the 2017 killing of 64-year-old Cynthia Trevillion, a teacher and innocent victim of a shooting near the Morse station in the 6900 block of North Glenwood Avenue.
“It’s a beautiful area,” he said. “But the rents keep going up. Crime keeps going up. Shootings keep going up. I used to take walks at night but not so much anymore.”
“I just hope they catch this guy because this is ridiculous,” he said.
Thomas Hunt, 56, who has lived in the area for about 16 years, also stopped by the scene. He said he was walking to the Morse Market when he passed by Jenkins and a woman. They were walking together on Morse and kissing. They were familiar faces on the block in recent years, Hunt said, though he didn’t know them personally.
He saw the couple again in the market’s parking lot talking to someone in a white car. Then as he was leaving the market, he saw the man outside a liquor store. The girl was no longer with him. As Hunt made his way home, he heard the gunshots and turned around.
He saw Jenkins inside the station and the girl in hysterics. People were yelling, “He went that way!” Hunt said he took note of the size of one of the bullet holes in the glass and thought to himself, “If they hit him, I didn’t think he was going to make it.”
Hunt noted that Morse Avenue has changed a lot since he moved there. Violence used to be more common a decade ago, but “every now and then something pops off.”
Last year, there were at least 25 people shot in the Rogers Park police district, at least eight of them fatally, according to Chicago Tribune data. So far this year, more than 35 people have been shot, seven fatally.
Outreach workers from Communities Partnering 4 Peace stood at the scene. Chanel Jones said they learned about this shooting while they were canvassing a nearby area in Sheridan Park, where a man was shot and killed Monday in the 1200 block of West Leland Avenue after getting into an Uber.
“He doesn’t bother nobody,” she said of Jenkins. “He just walks with his girlfriend, minding his own business. I’m not sure why somebody would shoot that man.”
Before she walked around to the other side of the scene, Jones spoke to two teenage boys by the crime tape and made sure they had the group’s contact information. Make sure you reach out, she told them.
“You can’t come back from this,” she said. “Once you’re gone, you’re gone.”
(Chicago Tribune’s Erin Hooley contributed to this report.)
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