Tensions erupt at wake for slain teen rapper Lil JoJo
BY MARK KONKOL Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org September 14, 2012 12:16PM
Warning: Videos contain strong language.
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Updated: October 16, 2012 6:07AM
Family, friends and gang members on Friday bid farewell to slain teen rapper Joseph “Lil JoJo” Coleman in a gangster rap funeral that was tainted by tension and fear, and ended with cops confiscating a loaded .45-caliber pistol.
While some mourners prayed in the Jones Funeral Home parlor — others smoked weed in the parking lot.
As family members paid their final respects, a crowd of young men eager to take a last look at Lil JoJo’s body surged toward his casket, nearly knocked it to the floor and pushed family members out of the way.
The music stopped.
Lil JoJo’s mother, Robin Russell, screamed into the microphone, “Get the f--- out.”
Minutes later, Chicago police cleared the funeral home at 79th and Kedzie in the Ashburn neighborhood.
Outside, police helicopters hovered overhead as several unmarked squad cars patrolled the streets.
Young men and women — some wearing “RIP JoJo” t-shirts and others flashing gang signs and exchanging gang handshakes — danced and sang along with Lil JoJo’s first song, “3HunnaK.”
The song taunts a violent street gang and may have lead to his murder, police say.
For John Coleman, the parking lot dance party — and even the crush of people who nearly toppled Lil JoJo’s casket — was a testament to how much his half-brother was loved in Englewood.
“Today’s a rough today for me. We grew up together. I’m not feeling right. I’m feeling crazy right now. But s--- you see all the people supporting him. He was loved,” John Coleman said. “Everyone wanted to see him. That didn’t make me mad. It makes me feel good. He was respected. He was known and appreciated.”
While the mourners sang outside, pallbearers loaded the casket into a black hearse.
Lil JoJo was gunned down on Sept. 4 while riding double on a bike — standing on the back — when a car pulled up and someone in a car shot and killed him, witnesses said.
He had hoped to get attention from record companies by feuding with Chief Keef, Lil Durk and Lil Reese — rap rivals from the neighborhood who have landed record deals. He wrote “3HunnaK” to call them out as frauds. The song includes a reference to “BDK” — taunt that police say means “Black Disciples Killers.”
Police say Lil JoJo was affiliated with the “Brick Squad” faction of the Gangster Disciples street gang that’s in an ongoing conflict with a faction of the Black Disciples that Chief Keef and his rap associates refer to in their songs and Tweets.
Police believe the Black Disciples may have been responsible for the murder. They also are investigating possible connections between the slaying and Lil JoJo’s feud with Chief Keef, Lil Durk and Lil Reese that played out Twitter and YouTube.
While the funeral procession meandered south to Mt. Hope Cemetery in the Morgan Park neighborhood, police got calls of shots being fired from a white car near 115th and Kedzie. Others called to report someone waving a gun out of a car window.
At the cemetery, mourners gathered around the grave, where Pastor Corey Brooks — the “Rooftop Preacher” — prayed and again called for gang members to set aside their hurt, find God and walk away from the violent thug life that took Lil JoJo’s life.
As her son’s casket was lowered into the ground, Russell wept hard and crumbled into the arms of a friend.
Friends gathering around the grave sadly chanted, “JoJo, JoJo, JoJo.”
Family members pointed at groups of young men who lingered near the grave.
“Those people aren’t his family. They say they’re family, but they’re not,” Lil JoJo’s cousin Charles Swift said. “You see all these shirts and you think JoJo must have been a big-time gang-banger because of all the people wishing him off to rest in peace. It’s the total opposite. This was a kid who was respectful and had his family behind him.”
But Lil JoJo also was influenced by negative influences on the street, Swift said.
“He was a kid that came home and played Xbox and had to watch his brother. And then he’d sneak out of the house,” he said. “You gotta remember in Chicago there’s a lot of single mothers. And the streets have more to offer than these mothers can. … Unfortunately, he had the influence of some neighbors and whoever was around him that made him feel like he was gonna chase this dream this way.”
‘Just lost my brother’
As the funeral crowd dispersed, police from Chicago, Cook County and Merrionette Park converged on some cars outside the cemetery, searching the people inside and the cars.
Police closed down several blocks of 115th Street near Fairfield as they searched for guns.
Chicago police gang officers, some armed with assault rifles, swarmed the Kean Oil Company filling station at 111th Street and Talman, where a gang disturbance was reported. Police searched seven cars and SUVs and frisked about 30 people, including members of Lil JoJo’s family. Police found a loaded .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol in a white car. Late Friday, two people were in custody and charges were pending, police said.
A woman who identified herself as Lil JoJo’s aunt said she’s afraid for her family.
“We’re scared. There have been threats. I can tell you that,” she said. “And no one has been arrested for killing JoJo … Maybe people feel like they have to defend themselves.”
John Coleman said he’s not going to let threats keep him from pushing his half-brother’s legacy.
“These threats have been brought up a lot by my family,” he said. “I keep telling them don’t worry … what happens will happen anyway. I just lost by brother so I have to finish this dream of his, accomplish his mission with this music. I gotta feed my family.”