BY EMILY GRAY BROSIOUS
Homicide Watch Chicago
Alexander Villafane named his youth football program after his second-favorite NFL team, the New England Patriots, family said.
The 39-year-old football coach did not get to see the Patriots win Super Bowl XLIX this month because he was fatally shot in the head while working on a vehicle less than a week before the game, family said.
Villafane was replacing a stolen catalytic converter when he was wounded during a Jan. 25 drive-by shooting in the 3500 block of West 24th Street, family said.
Villafane, of the 2300 block of South St. Louis Avenue, died two days later at Mount Sinai Hospital, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
“I’m at a complete loss … I would never imagine, in a million years, out of all the things that could happen, something like this.” said Villafane’s stepdaughter, Jennessa Martinez.
She said her stepfather dedicated his life to keeping children on the football field and off the streets.
Villafane started the Humboldt Park football team with his brother about 10 years ago as a way to help at-risk youths, family said. He coached more than 300 children, many of whom went on to play high school or college football, Martinez said.
“It’s hard to see that the very thing he was fighting against was the thing that took his life,” she said.
Relatives described the father of four as a “family man” who was a “role model” to many.
“He just taught me so much as I grew up in life,” said Villafane’s godson Angel Del Valle. “He didn’t give up on me. He worked with me, he worked with many of the other kids that were on the bench to better themselves so they can become better people.”
The family believes Villafane’s shooting might have been a case mistaken identity.
Witnesses only told relatives that a gunman inside a passing minivan shot Villafane, the family said during a press conference calling for more police cameras in the area.
Nobody has been charged for the murder.
Family members are asking anyone with information about Alexander Villafane’s murder contact Area Central detectives.