CPD has leads on the Ja’lon James case, GoFundMe launched to support family
Content warning: This post includes a graphic description of a child’s death.
Police have reportedly found the vehicle whose driver fatally struck Ja’lon James, 11, on the morning of Thursday, June 16, in North Lawndale, and then fled the scene, along with other evidence that may help track down the motorist. Meanwhile, loved ones and mentors of Ja’Lon (pronounced “JAYlon”) have shared remembrances of a child who “brought us all so much joy,” and a GoFundMe page has been launched to help support his family.
Ja’lon was the third child killed by a driver in Chicago within a two-week period. On June 2 an SUV driver fatally struck Rafi Cardenas, 2, in Lincoln Square. And on June 9 a semi driver struck and killed Lily Shambrook, 3, in Uptown.
According to the initial Chicago Police Department Statement police, Ja’lon was crossing the street in the 3300 block of West 16th Street at around 10:20 a.m. Thursday when a motorist struck him and fled. The boy was taken to Stroger Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The traffic crash report provides more information about what reportedly happened. While CBS Chicago reported yesterday that witnesses said Ja’lon was on a bike, the crash report describes him as a pedestrian. It says that after striking the boy, the motorist kept driving and hit a parked vehicle, but continued on, dragging the child half a block.
The crash report states that a responding officer reviewed video from a police surveillance camera that showed the offender traveling through a yellow light at Homan Avenue (3400 W.) The footage shows two pedestrians running south into the street from the alley.
Family members said Ja’lon and his twin brother Ja’len had left their home, less than a block away from the crash site, to pick up some milk at the corner store, according to ABC Chicago.
While Ja’lon’s brother “stopped in his tracks” as the driver approached, the crash report says, Ja’lon continued into the street and was struck. After dragging the boy under the vehicle, the driver stopped briefly before making a northbound turn onto Spaulding Avenue (3300 W.)
According to a Sun-Times report, police located the vehicle later that morning elsewhere in the neighborhood. While the license plates had been removed, a face mask was left behind, which was collected as evidence. As of Friday afternoon, no one was in custody.
In memory of Ja’lon, a balloon release was held Friday afternoon at the crash site.
Ja’lon leaves behind his mother Naquita Harrison and six brothers and sisters. His family said he and his twin turned 11 in April and had just finished 5th Grade at Herzl Elementary.
“He’s going to be one missed grandchild,” his grandmother Nicole Harrison told the Chicago Tribune. “The driver knew they had hit a kid. As little as he was, knowing that you hit a kid and you just kept going like it was nothing.”
Nicole Harrison asked for the driver to turn themself in. “This is something that could’ve been avoided, something that shouldn’t have happened.”
“He has a family that really loves him,” Ja’lon’s cousin Devonna Gates told ABC Chicago. “He’s an honor roll student. And it’s all messed up. He didn’t get to live his life.”
His teacher Hannah Haugland spoke glowingly of him. “He was just the most loving, caring student, and he had such a passion for learning,” she told ABC.
Ja’lon reportedly enjoyed playing basketball and video games, dancing, gardening. and training twice a week at The Bloc, a nonprofit boxing club.
Jamyle Cannon, one of Ja’lon’s coaches at The Bloc, who talked with CBS about the boy, launched a GoFundMe page to help pay for his funeral and cover other expenses. So far it has raised over $13,000. “He was an energetic and warm-hearted child,” Cannon wrote. “His love for his family was obvious to everyone who knew him. Even on difficult days, he found ways to show love and appreciation for them.”
The sustainable transportation advocacy group Better Streets Chicago and the Chicago Family Biking organization staged a Walk + Bike for Safe Streets last Sunday to honor Rafi Cardenas and Lily Shambrook and demand that local leaders do more to prevent traffic violence. It drew hundreds of people, including multiple elected officials, who traveled between the crash sites in Lincoln Square and Uptown.
“We are devastated that yet another child has paid the price of our unsafe streets,” Better Streets and Chicago Family Biking said in a joint statement about Ja’lon’s passing. “Kids should be able to walk and bike in their neighborhood without getting killed. The city of Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Department of Transportation commissioner Biagi have failed Chicago’s families – and their silence speaks volumes… Every elected official needs to come together for immediate action to prevent further carnage on our streets. This must be a turning point. If not now, when?”