Antonio Davis, 14, was shot to death June 22, 2012, while walking to the store with a cousin in Englewood. He was attending a summer session at Leo High School, where he planned to study this fall.
Updated: November 22, 2012 6:25AM
When 30 incoming Leo High School freshmen were asked somewhat rhetorically by a teacher a few months ago how many could leave the building and return by 3 p.m. with a gun — about 16 kids raised their hands.
“Some of these kids come from some of the roughest areas in the city, they know guys from their neighborhood,” said Leo President Dan McGrath, who also is an occasional sports columnist for the Sun-Times.
But the tiny, tight-knit, 90 percent black student body manages mostly to keep violence at arms length — creating a safe haven of brick and mortar at 79th and Sangamon that shrugs off metal detectors at entrances and security roaming its halls.
A chill, however, went through Leo’s 157 students last weekend when senior Miles Turner, 18, was critically shot just five months after freshman Antonio Davis, 14, was killed by gunfire.
The good-natured ragging prevalent at all-male Catholic Schools has been largely on hold.
“The place has been quieter than usual,” said Darrell Johnson, a junior at Leo. “It’s scary . . . we rarely talk now, usually we’re joking around and stuff, but our whole demeanor has changed,” said Johnson, who has become hyper-aware of his surroundings while taking the CTA bus home from school.
Johnson is pals with Turner, a 6-foot-1, 300-pound football player and class comedian who’s currently fighting for his life at Northwestern University Medical Center with five bullets lodged in his body.
“I usually see [Turner] in the hallways and try to jump on his back and make him carry me to the classroom,” said Johnson.
On Saturday night a gunman opened fire on the 6300 block of South Rhodes — where Turner went to visit a girl he took to prom — wounding Turner and killing his cousin, Modell McCambry, 17, who police say had gang ties. Police said Turner, who tried to shield his cousin, was not connected to gangs.
Five months earlier, Antonio Davis, an incoming Leo freshman, was killed by an unknown gunman while walking to a corner store near 70th and Union.
Johnson, the captain of the cross country team, had texted Davis that day about joining the squad, but never heard back. “The coach texted me later and told me he’d been killed . . . that was tough to hear,” said Johnson.
Over the last 25 years, about six students have been hit by gunfire, but violence is always lurking.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard students tell me ‘I didn’t go outside all summer, my neighborhood is crazy,’ ” said McGrath, a Leo class of ’68 alum. “When I was a kid we’d come in on Monday a bit subdued because we were out on the weekend doing what we do. But our kids come in Monday and they’re all charged up because they were cooped up over the weekend.”
The Auburn Gresham neighborhood around Leo may have changed since McGrath’s high school years because of white flight in the late ’60s, but the attitude of the students has held fast.
“We’re like brothers, and if one goes down, we all go down,” said Johnson. “But we’ll bounce back. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”