Community Calls For Strict Action After Benito Juarez Shooting

On Friday, a gunman opened fire inside Benito Juarez Community Academy, killing two teenagers and injuring two others. On Sunday night, community members gathered in Pilsen to come to terms with the tragedy.

More than 50 people mourned the deaths of 15-year-old Brandon Perez and 14-year-old Nathan Billegas. At the Lincoln United Methodist Church in the area, residents voiced their opinions in Spanish and English.

Pastor Emma Lozano said in her opening prayer, “Our hearts are broken for what happened,” referring to the fact that the students had been shot to death right outside the school’s door after dismissal.

The conversations between parents and their children often brought anxiety, sadness, and anger. Many spoke through tears about the pervasive violence, the desire for peace, and the urgency of creating change to protect the children of Pilsen better.

Many people have argued that schools should take a break, that there should be more youth-oriented activities, and that there should be more precise plans for safety. Others called for a meeting with the mayor, governor, and CPS administration to discuss the issue of school violence.

They were joined by representatives from the offices of Governor J.B. Pritzker, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Cook County, and CPS, as well as Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) and State Sen. Javier Loera Cervantes (1st) from Illinois.

William Guerrero, 21, an activist working to reduce gun violence, said, “I’m tired of seeing kids die to senseless gun violence that we can easily prevent.”

Network 15 Chief of Schools Michael Boraz addressed the crowd and detailed CPS’s upcoming week of support for students and faculty. He assured parents that the school would remain open but would grant absences on request.

“There are many students for whom the school is the best place to be this week,” Boraz said. Juan Carlos Padilla told the crowd that he felt “lucky” when his son walked out of the school unharmed after the shooting on Friday.

Padilla lamented, “I feel so incompetent that I can’t do something.” Politicians and parents, he argued, should establish mechanisms for citizens to volunteer to guard the school. Why? “Because that could have been my son,” he reasoned.

Two other people, a girl and a boy, both 15, were shot as well. Police said Brandon attended Juarez High School while Nathan attended Chicago Bulls College Prep. According to investigators, the boy attends Noble UIC College Prep, and the girl goes to Juarez.

It’s just that I’ve been thinking about her and worrying that she’s okay. By Sunday evening, more than $6,000 had been donated to a GoFundMe set up to help cover the costs of the funerals for the two boys, who died late on Saturday.

His sister wrote on the memorial page that Nathan “was a very intelligent, outgoing, and kindhearted young boy.” Anyone who needed help could count on him to go above and beyond for them. He was a man with an enormous emotional capacity.

Nathan’s sister described Brandon as “outgoing, lovable, and smart.” He was kind, respectful, and the epitome of a gentleman. She penned, “Their whole lives lay in front of them.” Mayra Tapia, Nathan’s mom, verified the GoFundMe. On Saturday, Tapia expressed his desire to find out who killed his friend.

As of Sunday night, police reported that they had no suspects in custody. CPS officials said their school system is working with police to identify and apprehend the shooter, and the investigation is ongoing. On Saturday, police released a surveillance image of a person they wanted to question about the shooting.

Assistant Secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services for Gun Violence Prevention Chris Patterson has stated that the state government will maintain its partnership with Pilsen’s anti-violence community groups.

We know schools are not safe places, but neither are our neighborhoods or cities, Patterson said. Tanya Lozano, Emma Lozano’s daughter and a former student at Juarez, now works as a youth pastor, and she says that the healing process is just getting started.

Tanya Lozano said, “It’s going to be a while before the kids feel safe going back to school.” She emphasized the importance of leaders making the school environment safer for students but noted the complexities of addressing the causes of violence.

This is not something that just happened by chance. “It’s the result of several smaller problems adding up,” Tanya Lozano said.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.