Ja’lon James, 11, struck in N. Lawndale is 3rd Chicago child killed in 2 weeks
Content warning: This post includes descriptions of children’s deaths.
Update 6/17/22: While some CBS Chicago reported that witnesses said Ja’lon James was fatally struck while biking, the traffic crash report states that he was on foot, based on police surveillance camera footage. Streetsblog initially reported the case as a bike fatality, but will be treating it as a pedestrian fatality moving forward. This post has been edited accordingly.
Tragically, Chicago has just seen the third traffic violence death of a child under 12 years old within two weeks. Following the June 2 killing of Rafi Cardenas, 2, in Lincoln Square, and the June 10 death of Lily Shambrook, 3, in Uptown, Ja’lon James, 11, was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver this morning near North Lawndale College Prep school.
According to police, on Thursday, June 16, at about 10:20 a.m., Ja’lon (pronounced “JAYlon”) was crossing the street on the 3300 block of West 16th Street. North Lawndale College Prep is located at the southwest corner of 16th and Spaulding Avenue (3300 W.)
A vehicle driver struck Ja’lon and fled in an unknown direction, police said. No further information about the driver, the vehicle or the circumstances of the crash were provided in the initial police statement.
Ja’lon was taken to Stroger Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
WGN reported that the child’s backpack was left in the middle of the roadway.
According to a CBS report witnesses said the boy entering 16th Street from an alley east of Homan Avenue (3400 W.) when the eastbound driver struck and dragged him about 100 feet. The driver then stopped and backed up before fleeing the scene.
Some witnesses told Rezaei that someone got in a car, followed the offender and got a license plate number, and then gave the information to police. But there’s no word whether the driver is in custody.
According to a Block Club Chicago report, neighbors said drivers frequently speed on 16th, and more stop signs are needed to slow them down.
“I heard the bang,” neighbor Keith Gerald told Block Club. “I thought [the driver] hit a car. I looked up and it was a little boy. I was really upset. That boy was really young.”
“A lot of people don’t obey the signs on the ground,” a witness named Latanya told BCC. “They see a crosswalk but they could care less,” she said.
As of last September, the Chicago Department of Transportation was planning to install bike lanes on a two-mile stretch of 16th Street between the city limits (about 4600 W.) and Sacramento Drive (3000 W.) in Douglass Park, as part of a new network of bikeways on the West Side. Footage from FOX news shows that in this location there are currently dashed “advisory” bike lanes, which appear to have little or no effect on calming traffic.
CDOT provided the following statement. “Last year CDOT installed new bike lanes along 16th street from Kilbourn Ave. (4600 W.) to Albany Ave. (3100 W.), including protected lanes from Central Park Ave. (3600 W.) to Homan Ave. and from Spaulding Ave. (3300 W.) to Kedzie (3200 W.) We’ve also installed curb extensions. CDOT is working on adding additional bike routes in the community as part of Neighborhood Bike Networks in North Lawndale, Austin, and Belmont Cragin. CDOT will conduct a complete review of the circumstances involved in today’s fatality.”
Oboi Reed, head of the mobility justice nonprofit Equiticity, provided the following statement in response to Ja’lon’s death.
I’ve been a proud resident of North Lawndale for over three years, and love this neighborhood. I love the people, organizations, and the work being done here to improve our community. Myself and others consider 16th Street the cultural corridor of North Lawndale, incredibly rich in a history which has impacted our entire country.
It’s heartbreaking to know that today we lost an 11-year-old boy to a traffic crash here in North Lawndale. While the city of Chicago recently installed bike lanes on a significant stretch of 16th Street, which Equiticity fully supported, the city and others must do more to re-engineer our streets in an effort to reduce traffic violence in the neighborhood.
We need a citywide strategy, led by Black and Brown people in neighborhoods, fully resourced with the necessary levels of funding to wholesale reimagine our streets, operationalizing racial equity and mobility justice from the beginning. This comprehensive strategy must be cultural, contextual, and structural.
I am confident we will reduce traffic violence. However, we must first acknowledge our current strategy is not working.
Roughly 300 people, including multiple elected officials, attended last Sunday’s Walk + Roll for Safe Streets, which traveled between the Rafi Cardenas crash site and the location where Lily Shambrook, demanding action to prevent future heartbreak. After Ja’lon’s tragic death, calls for the city and state to address Chicago’s traffic violence epidemic are sure to only grow louder.
Better Streets Chicago and Chicago Family Biking, which organized Sunday’s rally, have partnered with the Active Transportation Alliance on an online petition calling on city officials to be more proactive about protecting children, and all Chicagoans, from traffic violence. Sign the petition here.
“Our hearts go out to Ja’lon’s family for their tragic loss,” said ATA executive director Amy Rynell in a statement. “Just devastating. Children dying on our streets is unacceptable — and we know how to prevent these tragedies. We must design our streets with safety for people – rather than speed or driver convenience – as the top priority. It’s imperative that our city and state leaders act with urgency to build safe infrastructure before more of our friends, family, and loved ones die.”
Fatality Tracker: 2022 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths on surface streets (including one scooter-on-sidewalk case)
Note: Streetsblog Chicago’s traffic death numbers represent fatal crashes on Chicago surface streets, based on media reports and/or preliminary Chicago Police Department data.
2022 Chicago pedestrian fatality cases (including one scooter-on-sidewalk case)
- On June 16, 2022, a hit-and-run driver struck and killed a Ja’lon James, 11, as he crossed the street in the 3300 block of West 16th Street in North Lawndale.
- On June 12, 2022, a distracted Nissan Altima sedan driver fatally struck Peter Paquette, 75, at Irving Park Road and Hoyne Avenue in North Center.
- On June 2, 2022, an SUV driver struck and killed 2-year-old Raphael “Rafi” Cardenas at Eastwood Avenue and Leavitt Street in Lincoln Square as the toddler rode a mini-scooter into the intersection.
- On May 27, 2022, a Honda sedan driver fatally struck Wilberto Rivera, 76, as he crossed North Avenue at Albany Avenue. He died from his injuries two weeks later on June 11.
- On May 27, 2022, a hit-and-run SUV driver fatally struck Martha Velazquez, 34, on the 2900 block of West Columbus Avenue in Ashburn.
- On May 19, 2022, a motorcyclist fatally struck Timothy Kast, 46, as he crossed the 5300 block of West Irving Park Road in Portage Park.
- On May 11, 2022, a BMW sedan driver struck and killed 82-year-old Concepcion Lopez, as she waited at a CTA bus stop on the 2100 block of West Peterson in West Ridge.
- On May 10, 2022, a left-turning van driver failed to yield to failed to yield to Berta Arroyo Salgado, 73, as she crossed the street in a crosswalk at Chicago Avenue and Paulina Street in West Town, killing the senior.
- On May 6, 2022, a Cadillac sedan driver ran a red light at Roosevelt Road and Damen Avenue on the Near West Side, struck another vehicle, and careened onto the sidewalk, killing a 33-year-old man.
- On April 18, 2022, a left-turning sedan driver fatally struck Yehuala Melkama, 44, as she walked in a crosswalk at Hazel and Sunnyside avenues in Uptown.
- On March 27, 2022, an SUV driver struck and killed Larry J. Davis, 68, at 3350 S. Kedzie Ave. in Little Village.
- On March 17, 2022, a left-turning driver struck and killed Miriam M. Grande, 70, at Grand and Austin avenues in the Belmont Central neighborhood and fled the scene.
- On March 15, 2022, a car driver fatally struck Allen Lee Jr., 88, as he attempted to cross Western Avenue at 109th Street in Morgan Park.
- On February 8, 2022, a Chicago police officer struck Javion Marquel Johnson, 20, with an SUV after Johnson had been shot multiple times, potentially contributing to his death, at 12111 S. Stewart Avenue in Rosehill.
- On January 20, 2022, a hit-and-run driver fatally struck Richard Haljean, 57, as he crossed Touhy Avenue at Oriole Avenue in Edison Park.
- On January 15, 2022 Angel Thomas, 35, was walking to her car on the 4300 block of West Jackson Boulevard in West Garfield Park when an SUV driver fatally struck her and fled.
- On January 12, 2022, an SUV driver struck and killed Deborah Renee Jones, 67, in the 6800 block of South Stony Island in South Shore.
2022 Chicago bike fatality cases
- On June 9, 2022, a semi truck driver ran over and killed Elizabeth “Lily” Grace Shambrook, 3, riding in a child seat on the back of her mother’s bike at Leland and Winthrop avenues in Uptown. The mother was uninjured.
- On May 4, 2022, a Nissan Versa sedan driver fatally struck Nick Parlingayan, 22, on his bike at Milwaukee and Kilbourn avenues in Irving Park.
- On April 16, 2022, an allegedly intoxicated hit-and-run Volkswagen Jetta driver fatally struck Paresh Chhatrala, 42, near Madison and Peoria streets in the West Loop.
- On February 28, 2022, a BMW sedan driver ran a red light at Balbo Drive and DuSable Lake Shore Drive in the Loop, fatally striking Gerardo Marciales, 41, on a Divvy bike.