By ELIZABETH CZAPSKI
Homicide Watch Chicago
LaDarryl Walls recalled his cousin, D’Ante J. Swanson, was his grandmother’s “right-hand man.” His three main activities were helping his grandmother, whom he called “Grams”; making music, and going to work, Walls said.
It was after getting off work on Jan. 5 that Swanson was shot to death Jan. 5 while sitting in his car in the Bronzeville neighborhood on the South Side.
Someone walked up to the 28-year-old about 11:15 p.m. as he sat in the driver’s seat of his car, parked in front of the Hyde Park Seventh-Day Adventist Church in the 800 block of East 46th Street, according to Chicago Police and the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
The suspect fired repeatedly, striking Swanson several times across the body, police said. Swanson, also known as “Taye” or “Newz” died at the scene, authorities said.
Swanson worked for FedEx, but it was not clear if robbery was the motive for the shooting. He had stopped in the neighborhood to visit family members after getting off work when he was attacked.
His grandmother, Betty Jo Swanson, whom he lived with, got a call from D’Ante’s uncle that night, telling her what had happened. The news spread quickly through their large family, she said.
D’Ante was intending to visit his mother and aunt, who live in Bronzeville, when he was shot, Betty Swanson said. She did not go to the crime scene, but other family members did. “His mom was in a state of shock, almost, because, you know, to see your child like that is more than a notion, especially a child that’s never been a problem to you at all,” she said.
Betty Swanson said her grandson was unfamiliar with the Bronzeville neighborhood, and she believes he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. No one is in custody for the shooting.
D’Ante Swanson worked part-time as a package handler for FedEx for 10 years, and had just saved up enough money to buy a car, a 2015 Chrysler 300, which he was sitting in when he was shot, Betty Swanson said. She said she believes the car may have brought him to the shooter’s attention.
Swanson’s passion was making music, family members said. The aspiring rapper, whose performing name was “Newz,” and his cousins often got together to write and perform songs, calling themselves the “C.O.B.” for “Circle of Blood.” He and his cousins were “very close” and talked every day, Walls said.
When he wasn’t making music, Swanson was watching cartoons, playing video games or bowling, Betty Swanson said. He was a talented bowler, and played in a bowling league.
“He went through bowling from early life all the way up to his last breath,” Betty Swanson said. As a kid he was involved in a variety of sports, including swimming, basketball and baseball, which Betty Swanson’s older brother coached, she said. He also loved to dance.
Growing up, he was “fun-loving” and “well-rounded,” Swanson said, recalling that he always wore big glasses because of his poor eyesight. He “had a lot in his life that was positive.”
Swanson’s cousin, Brandon Williams, remembered playing sports with him and the other boys in their family. “He was a really happy person,” Williams said. “He was always smiling. I’ve never seen him upset.”
Swanson attended Chicago International Charter School and CICS Longwood Academy. He was taking online college courses before he was killed, according to his grandmother. “He was on the move of trying to do something positive. At the age of 28, he’s still young enough, you know, to become something. And so this is as far as he made it,” she said.
Betty Swanson is a fixture in the Auburn-Gresham community, having lived there for more then 50 years. She is the president of the 79th and Carpenter Block Club, and has worked with city officials through the years to reduce violence and generally improve the neighborhood, according to articles by Medill Reports Chicago.
Betty Swanson said she has volunteered around the community since she moved there, but became more active in 1985, when the alderman offered her a volunteer position after the death of her husband. Since then, she’s never stopped working to improve the neighborhood.
D’Ante became an activist alongside his grandmother, helping the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation (GAGDC) set up for events like the annual 79th Street Renaissance Festival, attending Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) meetings and supporting the alderman when necessary. He also helped with the senior group she chairs.
“All my grandkids grew up working the community of Auburn-Gresham,” Betty Swanson said. It was something that they genuinely enjoyed and never thought of as a chore, she said.
Because of his volunteer work, D’Ante was well-known in the community, and his funeral was crowded with people outside of his large family who came to pay their respects, Betty Swanson said.
“It hurt, but I was still proud that he left this earth with a nice clean slate, and looking good. That’s my main concern, that all my grandkids stay as clean as they can through life,” she said.
Walls said Swanson was the first person in their family to be killed by gun violence, and he’s still “shocked” by the situation.
He hopes telling people about D’Ante will show them the effect violence has on families and communities. “He was tremendously loved by his entire family,” he said.
“These things happen to everybody, a lot of people every day, and in some cases, not much gets done. We just want to see justice, not just for him, but for a lot of parents who lost their kids in the same manner,” Walls said. “Being a citizen of Chicago, we’re kind of getting tired of the violence.”