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By Mike Sandrolini
MAYWOOD | Maywood police chief Val Talley said there are no new leads at this point with regard to the shooting death of 14-year-old Michael Jones late last month.
“We’re asking anyone with information to provide that to us,” he said. “Officers are still doing investigations, and still working through investigative methods. Hopefully we’ll be able to resolve this over the next 30 to 60 days.”
Jones was shot multiple times at around 4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 30 in the 600 block of 11th Avenue in Maywood. He died the next morning at Loyola University Medical Center.
Talley said “our suspicions are” that the shooting was the result of gang-related activity.
“We don’t believe this young man was involved (in a gang),” he said. “He (Jones) could have been a misidentified person; he could have been somebody under (gang) recruitment (and) that (he) declined. There’s a whole host of ‘ifs’ that have to be ferreted by investigators.”
The funeral for Jones was held Sept. 9 at Rock of Ages Baptist Church in Maywood. Rev. Regi Ratliff referred to Jones as “Big Mike” and one of “Eternal Light Community Center’s former star members” in a Facebook post. He was described as a kind and gentle person.
Talley said Jones was to have been a freshman at Proviso East after attending Irving Middle School, but had not yet enrolled at East.
“That is my understanding, but that was the plan (for him to enroll),” he said.
Talley said the area in which the shooting occurred—the 600th block of 11th Avenue—“we are looking at it now as a hot spot (for gang activity).”
“Along Washington Avenue we’re starting to see an increase in a lot of shooting activities,” he said. “We’re concentrating a lot of our tactical investigative efforts around there. We have over the last 14 days seen a decrease in gang activity in Washington Park (located at10th and Washington).”
A vehicle was recovered at the scene of the shooting, but at this point, Talley said it’s not conclusive whether the vehicle was used by the suspects involved in Jones’ murder.
“They (investigators) finger-printed the vehicle and so those (results) haven’t come back so we don’t know what the relationship is,” he said. “Officers canvassed the area and some information was pulled. The officers follow up on any kind of leads they get, and all I can say at this time is that that was a suspect vehicle; the officers did collect evidentiary material on it and we’ll find out from that. All we can go by what people have told us.”
Talley noted that there are surveillance cameras in the area, and footage is being reviewed from those cameras.
“We have several of our (surveillance) cameras back online and any axillary cameras we have from residents that canvas the area,” he said. “Anything that we can pull; again, we’re asking the public that if they live around that area 11th avenue) to let us know.
“I know that there are cameras around 10th (Avenue) and we can probably see where they (suspects) were walking, because they weren’t driving; they were walking.”
Jones’ murder—the ninth homicide in the village this year—has struck a nerve within the community.
“It struck a nerve with us (at the police department),” Talley said. “As a police entity, all we can do is respond to crimes. We can be proactive, and we are; we have a community police officer and we try to keep an ear on what’s going on. But the community needs to tell us what they’re seeing because we can’t be everywhere.”
He urged parents to “involve your kids in activities.”
“Organized activities allow kids to hang around a certain type of kids and it allows them to learn good citizenship skills, good leadership traits so I advocate and recommend it,” he said. “I know that Dr. (Patrick) Hardy over at Proviso East has done a tremendous job in transforming what goes on. Even the younger kids, Ms. (Michelle) Hassan (the principal) over at Irving, I know that she has done a really good job.
“I just think this is where the community needs to be more involved. If it’s before school or during school hours, they need to be in school. After school hours they need to have after-school programs designed to give them something to do so they won’t be recruited by gangs or involve themselves in thievery or robbery.
“Hopefully it is a wake-up to the community and I say ‘we.’ I live here in town and it impacts me as a public administrator as well as a resident. We need to make sure that our kids feel safe.”