By John Carpenter and Cat Zakrzewski
“That’s how we got the news,” said Cauirece’s mother, Brenda Graham
Later that night, Graham was quietly mourning the loss of her 28-year-old son when she heard gunshots, looked out her back window, and saw Benion, 23, dying in the alley behind the 1800 block of W. Garfield, shot to death as he got out of his car.
Two neighbors. Two murders. Eight hours apart.
“I think this area is going so sour right now,” said Shannon Benion, L’Terrick Benion’s mother, who has lived in Englewood for 39 years. “It’s just like every one is a target. It doesn’t matter who it is.”
Police said both murders appear to be gang related. What’s less clear is whether or not they were related to each other, possibly part of conflict between rival gangs — or factions within the same gang — in the neighborhood. The two murder victims knew each other and were described as acquaintances — certainly not enemies.
The first murder happened just before noon. Graham walked across Garfield Boulevard and two blocks west, into what is technically the Back of the Yards neighborhood, to buy lunch for his three children. A man followed him into the small restaurant and, after a brief exchange, opened fire.
The co-owner of the restaurant, who would give only his first name, John, was behind the counter when he heard eight shots.
“I just hear the shots – boom, boom, boom. I got scared. It was so loud,” he said.
The suspect fled the scene on a bicycle and was not in custody as of late Tuesday evening.
One of the restaurant customers said the man was in a nearby gas station before he followed Graham into the restaurant. Ahmed Gazzaley, who works at the gas station, said the station’s security camera captured the man who may have been the shooter.
He said that the man bought two Swisher Sweet cigars then left on his bike. Gazzaley said he heard gunshots within “three to four minutes” of when the man left.
The day after the murder, the restaurant had been cleaned, but signs of Monday’s shooting remained. There were bullet holes in the seats, and in a section of the restaurant’s wall.
At Graham’s apartment Tuesday, his three young children ran around the living room as his family remembered him as a kind man who liked to work with his hands, repairing his children’s bikes or TVs around the house.
“My son was a gentle soul,” said Brenda Graham.
Iesha Rodgers, Cauirese Graham’s longtime girlfriend and the mother of his three children, said he was outside in the streets only when he was playing with the kids.
Graham did have a criminal record, however. Most recently he was convicted in 2012 of possession of a firearm and unlawful use of a weapon.
The second murder happened at 8:48 p.m. when L’Terrick Benion was getting out of his car. He parked it in the alley behind the apartment building where he lived with his mother, in the 1800 block of West Garfield.
Police spokeman VeeJay Zala said a gunman fired several shots, striking Benion multiple times in the back.
Shannon Benion said she heard the shots, pulled the younger children inside, then heard a neighbor yell that her son had been hit.
“At that point I ran down the stairs … It was him and he was still breathing. He was laying right here.”
Benion pointed to the blood-stained pavement in the alley, where she watched her son die.
“This was where he was trying to talk, and he couldn’t get out what he was saying, but he was saying something. We couldn’t make out what he was saying, I was just telling to hold on I’m here, hold on, just breathe for me, breathe for me,” she said. “But, unfortunately, when I saw the blood spat coming out of his mouth, I knew that he wasn’t going to make it … I watched him take his last breath.”
Photos by Cat Zakrzewski