By JORDAN OWEN
Chicago Sun-Times Wire
Arshell Dennis III, the son of a Chicago Police officer and an aspiring journalist, was shot and killed outside his home in the Wrightwood neighborhood early Sunday in an attack that also left another man.
Dennis, 19, was sitting outside the family home in the 2900 block of West 82nd Street with a 20-year-old man a few minutes after midnight when a male approached and started shooting, according to Chicago Police and the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
Dennis, the son of Officer Arshell (Chico) Dennis Jr., was shot in the chest and was pronounced dead at Little Company of Mary Hospital at 12:45 a.m., authorities said. He lived on the same block where the shooting happened.
The 20-year-old was shot in the arm and chest and taken to Christ Medical Center in serious condition, police said.
Known as “Trey,” Arshell Dennis III was entering his junior year as a journalism major at St. John’s University in New York City, and was home visiting family prior to the start of the new school year.
“Our family is deeply saddened this by tragic and senseless shooting,” a statement from the Dennis family said.
“The loss of our son is stunning and painful. Trey was a junior in college at Saint John University, majoring in Journalism. Tragically, we were going to take him to airport today at 3 p.m. to return to school. Now because of this senseless violence, we will be grieving and planning his funeral. Trey was smart, funny, and the light of our lives. We ask for privacy at this time as we collect ourselves and deal with this stunning loss,” the family said.
A classmate at St. John’s posted this video of Dennis on YouTube.
Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson spoke to Officer Dennis on Sunday morning and said he is at a loss for words at the amount of grief the officer and his family are dealing with, according to a statement from police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. Johnson and Dennis were longtime friends who served together as patrol officers in the 6th District.
“Officer Dennis dedicated his life to make this city safer, and his son Arshell was a good kid, making his parents proud and studying for a promising future as a journalist,” Supt. Johnson said in the statement.
“As always, the men and women of the CPD will stop at nothing to find who was responsible and bring a sense of closure and justice to Officer Dennis and all of families affected by violence,” Johnson said.
“But in order to address the root of this violence, we must change the way the criminal justice system treats the reckless, repeat gun offenders who are causing this violence and send a clear message that when you are involved in gun crimes you will be held accountable.”
Pat Williams, a neighbor who lives three doors away from the family, said she was home around midnight when she heard six shots come from the gangway next to her house. By the time she went outside to see what happened, she said there were about 25 police officers who, after asking what she heard, found five bullet casings between her front yard, her neighbor’s front yard and the gangway between their houses.
“I left the Bronzeville neighborhood to come over here for a peaceful, less-congested kind of neighborhood, so it doesn’t feel very good to see this,” she said.
Brenda, a neighbor who asked to be identified by only her first name, said she was in her living room when she heard several shots outside. She thought they were coming from her porch, so she crawled to the back of the house. After about five minutes of silence, she looked outside and realized the shooting happened across the street.
“I think it was the mother, and she was crying so hard I went to the back of the house to not hear it,” she said.
“He was a promising child,” she said of Arshell. “He was going somewhere—handsome, intelligent and somebody must have mistaken his identity.”
Terri Bachstrom, who lives on the same block as the Dennis family, said she knew Arshell from working as a Chicago Public Schools lunchroom attendant. She said he was a quiet, well-mannered and great kid.
“He wasn’t in a gang. He wasn’t affiliated with any of the nonsense that’s going on in Chicago,” Bachstrom said. “He wasn’t one of those kids. He was just a different child all around the board, so I don’t understand why somebody would come in and shoot like that.”
Cesar Pantoja, who lives down the street from where the shooting happened, said he was leaving to meet his sister about five minutes before the shooting happened. He said he saw Arshell and his friend sitting in front of their home hanging out as he left the neighborhood.
“Everything was OK and they seemed to be having a good time,” Pantoja said. “I can’t get over that I saw them just before, and he was alive and having a good time, then five minutes later this happens.”
Pantoja said violence is not common in the neighborhood. A party was going on nearby Saturday night, Pantoja said, so he suspects the party could have attracted the shooters into the neighborhood.
“I’ve been here for 40 years and it’s been a very pleasant neighborhood, but sometimes when there are block parties we do have problems like break-ins and other people,” he said. “The parties sometimes bring in outside elements to our neighborhood. I’m willing to bet [the shooting] has nothing to do with any of us here.”