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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Murder and Mayhem - Eric "Guitar" Davis, Azim Hakeem, Mobeen Hakeem and Kevin Ross


If you look at the historic crime records in Chicago, you learn that the number of murder victims have trended down steadily since the mid-1970's.  There were 970 murders in Chicago in 1974. The number dropped to 435 in 2011 but bumped up to 513 in 2012 (which led to media focus on Chicago as "murder capital").  Thus far in 2013, the number of murders is down by around 20%.

None of these "big picture" numbers matter, though, because someone shot and killed Eric "Guitar" Davis.  He was found, shot in the chest,  in his car early on Monday morning.  He was over at the Kingston Mines blues club Sunday night and into the early Monday morning hours, playing and hanging out.  To his family and friends, the decline in Chicago's murder rate is not at all relevant. They have lost a beloved person to mindless violence and that is the only fact that matters.  In some Chicago neighborhoods, the murder rate did not decline.

Eric was one of those hard-working musicians that became fantastic through force of will.  He was a drummer, originally, and the son of a drummer.  Buddy Guy told Eric that guitar players get more attention, so Eric picked up the ax and started working.  I used to see him at jams years ago when he was in the early stages of his musical journey.  I saw him later fronting his band, figuring it out.  More recently, he emerged as a giant blues guitar shredder and passionate vocalist, got records out on the Delmark label and began to tour all over the place.  He was married and had 6 children - sometimes he would bring them up on the bandstand and play with them; his son on drums, his daughter on bass.  Eric was young and muscled-up.  He looked like he could be rockin' the mic at a hip-hop show, but he was a stone-cold bluesman.  It hurts to lose this guy. No suspects.  The murderer may never be caught.

Azim and Mobeen Hakeem were two brothers that operated an old-school tobacco shop on Davis Street in Evanston IL.  Mobeen had autism, and was very effective at the shop - the customers knew and liked him.  This past July, both of these harmless, low-key brothers were found shot to death in the basement of the shop.  They had been shot multiple times, and their wallets were missing.  Nothing else was taken from the shop.  The Evanston police were baffled, the family was devastated, the community was disrupted and frightened.  Since Azim and Mobeen were Muslims, there was concern that this was a hate crime.

This past Monday December 16, a man robbed the Chase Bank branch at 900 Grove Street in Evanston.   The bank personnel called the police, and they quickly ID-ed a guy matching the robber's description walking near the intersection of Maple and Davis streets, in front of the Bennison's Bakery.  They confronted him, the guy pulled out a 9 MM pistol and refused to drop the weapon (but he didn't shoot).  The cops shot and killed Kevin Ross.  He had a duffle bag full of the bank's cash.  The cops searched his apartment and storage lockers and found the social security card and ID's of Azim and Mobeen Hakeem.  Kevin Ross apparently was a one-man crime wave, with multiple bank robberies. Perhaps he killed a bunch of people, too. 

Every murder creates deep agony.  The losses accumulate.  A rising blues star is randomly murdered, leaving behind 6 kids and a wife (and legions of friends and admirers).  Two quiet brothers are ruthlessly murdered, a family grieves, a business closes, a community is damaged.  A criminal is shot and killed; perhaps his crimes were unknown to his friends and family.  They, too, are devastated by grief, and perhaps by shame.

Now think about 450 - 500 stories like this every year in the City of Chicago.  Think about the murder rate in the United States; 14,827 people killed in the U.S. in 2012, a murder rate over 4 times higher than Japan, Australia, Britain, Germany and France.

It is a helluva lot of loss and agony.

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