Cyclists rally behind Blackstone alumnus and Divvy worker Jermell Akins after shooting

Jermell Akins. Photo: GoFundMe
Jermell Akins. Photo: GoFundMe

After former Blackstone Bicycle Works student and Divvy bike-share mechanic Jermell “Mello” Akins, 25, was shot and critically wounded last month, Chicagoans, including bike community members, have stepped up to raise more than $50,000 to help cover his expenses.

On Monday, November 30, at about 7 p.m., police officers responded to a call of a person shot in the 1000 block of E. 62nd St. in Woodlawn, a few blocks west of Blackstone Bikes, according to Police News Affairs. They found Akins on the front lawn of a residence with a gunshot wound to the neck and the stomach. He was taken to the University of Chicago Hospital in critical condition. No one was in custody as of yesterday, and detectives are investigating the case.

The Chicago Tribune reported that bystanders found Akins lying in a driveway leading to an alley with bags of groceries scattered nearby. Witnesses said there were five or six shots. “Is he dead?” a neighbors asked a responding police officer. “It ain’t looking good for him,” the officer answered.

According to the GoFundMe page posted to cover Akins’ expenses, he was shot three times while walking from his car to his mother’s apartment, and was also wounded in the knee. “After two terrible days for family and friends, in which Jermell suffered a stroke and was induced into a coma, his care at University of Chicago Hospital brought him back to life,” the page states. “However, a long road to recovery and a mountain of expenses await the 25 year old. He will remain in the hospital until he can swallow food. Doctors are expecting a year of physical therapy to regain the ability to walk, and speech therapy to relearn how to speak in complete sentences.”

Akins, who has a five-year-old son, got involved in cycling and bike repair through youth programs at Blackstone, a community bike shop at 6100 S. Blackstone Ave., the GoFundMe page states. That eventually led to him getting a job maintaining cycles for the Divvy system.

“Through a love of bikes, Jermell and his peers formed a community that extended beyond the blocks they grew up on, beyond the sets and gangs that dominate our neighborhoods,” the page states, adding that he helped build a bicycle co-op in Gallup, New Mexico. “This attack, the struggles of recovery, and the precarious financial situation that Jermell finds himself in should motivate all of us to step up and give a helping hand because this community is strong and won’t let violence pull down one of our own.” So far more than $52,600 has been raised out of a $65,000 goal.

“Been knowing the young brother Mello for about ten years, since Blackstone Bikes was one of the first orgs in the Chicago bike community to embrace me and and my work, tweeted Oboi Reed, head of the mobility justice nonprofit Equiticity. “He’s been an important part of our community since. Sadly, he needs our help now.”

“Mello was the mechanic who built my bike my first year,” posted donor Neeraj Sharma on the GoFundMe page. “When I showed back up at Blackstone after having some problems with it after buying, he walked me through how to fix it and told me to ask for him if the same problem continued. Keeping him and his loved ones in my heart throughout his recovery.”

“I learned about Mello through the cycling community and though I haven’t been lucky enough to meet him yet, it is an honor to support people who positively impact the lives of so many around them,” posted donor John Montesi. “Sending love to you!”

“Prayers for your recovery!” wrote donor Lan Phan. “I hope to meet you in your journey and am excited to see what amazing future is ahead of you.”

Click here to donate to the recovery fund.

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