Man fatally shot in Austin is city’s 500th homicide victim this year
BY KIM JANSSEN AND BECKY SCHLIKERMAN Staff Reporters December 28, 2012 12:46AM
Noah Foods on the 4900 block of West Augusta Boulevard in Chicago, Ill., on Friday, December 28, 2012. A 40-year-old man was shot dead Thursday outside of the store. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 30, 2013 6:07AM
Nathaniel T. Jackson had been shot before — and lived to tell the tale.
But as a shooting survivor only a few months out of prison, the career criminal and reputed gang member had long been at increased risk of becoming a statistic.
Outside a West Side convenience store Thursday night, he became a particularly grisly one — Chicago’s 500th homicide victim of the year.
The milestone marked the first time since 2008 that the city has seen at least 500 homicides — and only the second time since 2003. With less than a week left until the new year, it left Chicago’s per capita homicide rate at more than double that of Los Angeles and more than three times New York’s.
Police Supt. Garry McCarthy and Mayor Rahm Emanuel all year have both fought back against criticism about the increased murder and shooting numbers.
But Jackson’s family didn’t need a bar chart to tell them that the 40-year-old grandfather they knew as “Tiger” was at risk.
“Stay off these street corners — don’t be standing out here unless you want to go back to jail,” Jackson’s sister, Veronica Crowder, says she recently warned her younger sibling.
Crowder said she hadn’t realized Jackson was out of prison until she ran into him at a bus stop a month ago. But her brother reassured her, saying he’d been doing temp work as a packer and that he was looking for more permanent work.
“He said, ‘Hey Sis, how you been?’” Crowder tearfully recalled Friday morning, hours after police found Jackson shot multiple times on an Austin sidewalk at the corner of Augusta and Lamon. “He had a daughter and a grandson — he was a nice guy.”
A lengthy rap sheet tells a different story, showing that Jackson was repeatedly convicted for domestic battery and had been in and out of prison for gun and robbery offenses for most of his adult life. Last sentenced to 12 years for a robbery conviction in 2007, he got out this summer and most recently had been living in the 4700 block of West Armitage, a couple of miles from the spot he was gunned down.
Despite several stretches behind bars, Jackson “tried to be a good father when he was around,” said close friend Canzetta Jackson.
Raised in the Henry Horner Homes housing projects, Nathaniel Jackson grew up around alcoholics and was soon “conditioned into a bad way of life,” despite efforts by friends and relatives to “drag him into church,” she said, adding that she hoped Jackson’s slaying would “convince at least one person out there to open their eyes make a change.”
“At 40, you should know what your path in life is, but too many people are lost,” Canzetta Jackson said.
As detectives Friday investigated the murder without making any arrests, McCarthy described the 500 homicides as “a tragic number.”
But in a statement released by his office, the superintendent noted the overall drop in crime this year and claimed that his new gang crime strategy has turned the corner on shootings and murders, too.
The department “has put the right people in the right places to accomplish our long-term goal,” he said, claiming “drastic reductions in shootings and homicides that spiked early in the year,” during an unusually mild winter.
“Shootings, which were at 40 percent increase in the first quarter, are at 11 percent year to date,” McCarthy said. “Murders, which were at 66 percent increase in the first quarter, have been reduced to 15 percent in the fourth quarter — and although it results in an overall increase, it represents great progress.”
The department had earlier Friday released a statement disputing that Jackson was the 500th homicide victim, citing the pending autopsy results in an unrelated suspected murder — a position it quickly backtracked from as the 500 figure was reported on national TV news.
Though the number represents a big jump over last year’s 435 homicides, and the homicide rate of 18 homicides per 100,000 residents dwarfs the equivalent figures of five in New York and eight in Los Angeles, 500 homicides remains well below the historical average over the last half-century.
Chicago’s homicide total — which got close to 1,000 in the early 1990s — fell below 500 just seven times since 1967, all of them within the last decade.
But hard numbers are cold comfort to friends and family of Nathaniel Jackson and the other 499 victims of 2012.
Noting that President Barack Obama has spoken out about gun violence since the Sandy Hook massacre, Canzetta Jackson said, “There are so many moments to cry about it, but he should be on TV every day, saying we should stop gun violence. Chicago is it, right now — and who wants to live like that?”