‘Let this boy make it’

He’d been shot at 15. Now, amid Chicago’s re­lent­less gun­fire, he had one goal: Stay alive.

The Washington Post Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - BY JOHN WOODROW COX IN CHICAGO

From his hos­pi­tal bed, the eighth­grader was al­ready plot­ting how to kill the kid who had put him there.

It had been a month since La­tee Smith’s 15th birth­day and a week since a bul­let blew a hole through his right hip, tear­ing into mus­cle and bone and leav­ing him bleed­ing on a side­walk, ter­ri­fied he was about to be­come an­other dead teenager on an­other West Side street cor­ner.

“Let this boy make it,” he re­mem­bered a woman pray­ing over him amid the crowd that gath­ered af­ter he and three friends, ages 11 to 16, were shot on the night of March 21, 2016.

“Squeeze my hand,” he re­mem­bered a para­medic telling him in the am­bu­lance as he begged for some­thing to take the pain away.

La­tee had awak­ened from surgery in a baby-blue med­i­cal gown with a metal rod embed­ded in his fe­mur. His first steps, braced by a walker, were so ex­cru­ci­at­ing that he’d closed his eyes and bent his head back. He had barely eaten, los­ing pound af­ter pound un­til the scale read 104. Then came the texts from fel­low gang mem­bers who swore they knew who’d caused it all.

“I be back walk­ing In 6 weeks,” La­tee had promised on Face­book, and in

re­sponse, a young man had posted three re­volver emoji and vowed to help him ex­act ret­ri­bu­tion.

Now, in his bed, La­tee could think of lit­tle else — “re­venge, re­venge, re­venge.” He would bor­row a pis­tol, steal a car and go at night. He would find the ri­val gang mem­ber who’d shot him, poke the gun out of the win­dow and, for the first time in his life, pull a trig­ger.

Then, on the day he was be­ing re­leased, Da­juan Smith, the older brother of an­other teen who had been wounded, stopped by La­tee’s room to say hello.

“I’m fix­ing to get back at them boys,” La­tee told him.

Don’t, pleaded Smith, a 24year-old high school bas­ket­ball coach who had re­cently lost a young man he men­tored to gun­fire.

“Your life,” Smith said, “is worth more than you think it is.”

La­tee couldn’t re­call any­one ever telling him that be­fore.

The third youngest of his fa­ther’s 15 chil­dren, he had grown up amid per­pet­ual chaos, bounc­ing from home to home in his ear­li­est years and some­times go­ing weeks with­out see­ing his mother as she strug­gled with drugs and al­co­hol. About age 8, he wound up with his dad, a Viet­nam War veteran and con­struc­tion worker who moved the fam­ily to a home they could af­ford in the West Side’s Austin neigh­bor­hood, one of the city’s most per­ilous.

La­tee had been blood­ied in fights, sold drugs on treach­er­ous street cor­ners and be­come so fa­mil­iar with gun­shots that he could some­times rec­og­nize a weapon’s cal­iber by its sound. He had seen a friend die on the street and mourned many oth­ers who had been killed. And none of it was re­mark­able. Per­haps nowhere in the United States does vi­o­lence rav­age more child­hoods than in Chicago. Since 2000, it has taken the lives of over 1,000 youths younger than 18, ac­cord­ing to po­lice data. That fig­ure doesn’t count thou­sands more who were shot but didn’t die, in­clud­ing La­tee, one of at least 300 kids wounded by gun­fire in 2016 alone.

He knew no world but that one, with its tan­gle of gangs, en­trenched cul­ture of re­tal­i­a­tion, and re­lent­less cy­cle of car­nage and in­car­cer­a­tion that had left many chil­dren like him con­vinced they have no fu­ture, no way to es­cape.

But on that fi­nal day in the hos­pi­tal, La­tee won­dered if he was wrong. What if he could some­how defy that fate?

“I was go­ing to end up in jail or end up dead,” La­tee de­cided, “so I had to do some­thing.”

And what he had to do was change ev­ery­thing: Who he spoke and lis­tened to. Where he went and when. What he did be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter school and on the week­ends. How he ap­proached al­most ev­ery de­ci­sion of ev­ery day.

Even if he did all of that, La­tee un­der­stood that it might not keep him safe in a city where he would still have to nav­i­gate the threat of con­stant and of­ten ran­dom shoot­ings, of ri­val gang mem­bers who wouldn’t care whether he’d re­nounced his own af­fil­i­a­tion, of pres­sure from friends who would want him with them, as he’d al­ways been, on the streets.

“The old me is dead,” La­tee be­gan to tell peo­ple, and he hoped that would be enough.

“You know some­body just got popped?” an­nounced a teenager sit­ting in the lobby of an Austin youth cen­ter just as La­tee and two other boys walked in­side.

More than a year had passed since La­tee’s own shoot­ing. He’d spent the morn­ing at an ori­en­ta­tion for the city’s sum­mer jobs pro­gram, and the news had al­ready reached him.

“Yeah, some­body got shot while we were in there. On A block,” said La­tee, now 16, point­ing at him­self as he slurped a plas­tic pouch of fruit punch. “A block” meant West Adams Street, a half-mile away, where he used to sell drugs.

La­tee was do­ing what­ever he could think of to avoid that life. He stayed off his old street cor­ners and learned to say no when his boys prod­ded him to hang out. La­tee of­ten bick­ered with his girl­friend, but he grew to de­pend on her. She in­sisted that he come see her more of­ten be­cause she fig­ured at her house, watch­ing a Wayans brothers’ movie on the couch, he was safe. She logged onto his Face­book page and erased his old street name, and he blocked the ac­counts of en­emy gang mem­bers who wanted to add him as a friend only so they could make threats. He im­proved his grades, got coun­sel­ing and started a paid ap­pren­tice­ship that taught him and other wounded Chicago teens how to blow glass. He spent al­most ev­ery af­ter­noon at the youth cen­ter, alone if he had to, watch­ing rap videos on YouTube.

La­tee was pop­u­lar — with long hair, high cheek­bones and an en­dear­ing gap­toothed smile — but didn’t talk much. Nick­named Pee­wee since in­fancy, La­tee, at 5foot-6, had al­ways been one of the small­est kids in class, and yet, he’d be­come one of the most dis­ci­plined. Nearly dy­ing had fueled his re­solve to stay alive.

“I’m lucky I got shot,” he said. “The bul­let made me more ma­ture. Smarter.”

But the first week of sum­mer had ar­rived, and La­tee knew that when classes ended in Chicago, shoot­ings of­ten spiked in the long, hot, empty days that fol­lowed. June was al­ready on its way to be­com­ing the city’s dead­li­est month for chil­dren in more than 15 years, with one be­ing killed, on av­er­age, ev­ery other day.

“Hap­pens all the time. Non­stop,” said Mar­tin An­guiano, a pro­gram man­ager for Broader Ur­ban In­volve­ment & Lead­er­ship De­vel­op­ment, bet­ter known as BUILD Chicago. The or­ga­ni­za­tion runs the youth cen­ter and has worked with the city’s most at-risk kids since the late 1960s.

An­other BUILD staff mem­ber walked over to greet La­tee and the other teens.

“I’m go­ing to give you one of th­ese,” La­tee said, of­fer­ing his el­bow rather than his right hand, with its gashed and swollen knuck­les.

An­guiano mo­tioned to the ban­dage be­neath La­tee’s black­ened right eye.

“How did that hap­pen any­way?” he asked.

La­tee shook his head, frus­trated. Then he told the story.

Three days ear­lier, BUILD had hosted a neigh­bor­hood party. La­tee and a few of the other guys who had been in a gang to­gether hadn’t wanted to go at first. The gath­er­ing was be­ing held at Colum­bus Park, in the heart of their old ri­val’s turf and just three blocks from where he’d been shot.

They shouldn’t worry, the youth cen­ter’s staff told them. The or­ga­ni­za­tion had ar­ranged for se­cu­rity guards and armed po­lice of­fi­cers to come, too.

So, that morn­ing, La­tee put on a white T-shirt that fea­tured an im­age of the sun be­hind the event’s ti­tle: Sum­mer of Op­por­tu­nity. He watched kids romp in­side a bounce house. He marched in a “Pa­rade for Peace.”

La­tee and his friends had just fin­ished their hot dogs when a boy from the other gang walked up from be­hind and swung. A melee en­sued be­fore po­lice broke it up, and BUILD staffers rushed their kids out on a bus. An­guiano had heard the op­pos­ing gang planned to re­turn with guns.

Now, at the youth cen­ter, gath­ered around a ta­ble near a wall plas­tered with “RE­SPECT LIFE” pledges the boys had all signed, their minds were once again on vi­o­lence.

“Who got shot on Adams?” La­tee asked.

“Dede and some­body else,” said a husky, round-faced 15-year-old. “Dede?” La­tee said, sur­prised. “Yeah, Dede got shot again,” an­other kid added.

“He just got shot like a month ago,” La­tee said.

He hadn’t yet taken ge­om­e­try or got­ten a driver’s li­cense, but La­tee had lost 10 peo­ple he knew to gun­fire, none older than 22, and 11 more to pri­son, in­clud­ing four con­victed of mur­der.

He didn’t view all of them as vic­tims. Many had made bad choices, and so had he.

La­tee had joined a gang at age 10, sho­plift­ing pow­dered dough­nuts from gas sta­tions and brawl­ing with ri­val gangs, usu­ally with fists but some­times with two-by-fours. Then he be­gan to swipe bikes and join joyrides in the back of stolen cars. La­tee, who adopted the moniker “Lil Spazz” be­cause it sounded more men­ac­ing than Pee­wee, had been caught and hand­cuffed, he said, but had never spent a night in jail or faced charges.

By the time he reached mid­dle school, La­tee be­gan to no­tice neigh­bor­hood friends flash­ing wads of cash. They wore nice sneak­ers and bought new clothes for the first day of school. He wanted those things, too, so one sum­mer morn­ing just past dawn — at an age when he still some­times watched the car­toon “Sid the Sci­ence Kid” — La­tee ner­vously stepped out onto a street cor­ner.

“Dubs,” he shouted on Adams, ad­ver­tis­ing $20 pack­ets of mar­i­juana just up the road from his home.

His gang traf­ficked pri­mar­ily in two spots, and he called his the “good block” be­cause most deal­ers there were chil­dren, which made drive-by shoot­ings less likely. He could make as much as $150 in four hours, more money than he’d ever had in his life, enough to buy Nike Air Force 1s and gro­ceries for his fam­ily.

La­tee sold on and off, he said, un­til one day when he saw the body of an­other dealer who’d just been gunned down. The scene gave him night­mares, and he de­cided the money wasn’t worth it.

Even then, though, he didn’t

aban­don the streets.

La­tee blamed him­self for all of it — his run-ins with po­lice, his shoot­ing, his in­abil­ity to play foot­ball again be­cause of the rod in his leg. Now he was try­ing his best to do right, but in west Chicago, that of­ten didn’t mat­ter.

One day, La­tee was walk­ing down a street to play video games at a friend’s house. Sud­denly, he heard a gun ex­plode, then the ting, ting, ting of bul­lets, meant for some­one else, strik­ing a nearby fence. He fled, run­ning for the first time since the night he was shot.

The high school au­di­to­rium’s brown cin­der block walls were cov­ered in bright yel­low mo­ti­va­tional posters.

“Be­lieve that there are no lim­i­ta­tions, no bar­ri­ers to your suc­cess.”

“The best way to change it is to do it, right?”

“What­ever your goal, you can get there if you’re will­ing to work.”

La­tee passed them on his way to a train­ing ses­sion for his cityspon­sored sum­mer job and slumped into a chair on the empty sec­ond row, hands in his pock­ets and a gray hoodie pulled low.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel had touted the jobs pro­gram, One Sum­mer Chicago, as a “door­way of op­por­tu­nity” that would lead “our chil­dren to re­al­ize their full po­ten­tial and a brighter fu­ture to­mor­row,” but La­tee didn’t think of it that way. For him, the job was essen­tial to his day-to-day sur­vival strat­egy. It would keep him busy and, hope­fully, safe, for 20 hours a week. Plus, he needed the money.

Like many of his friends, he had sold drugs for no other rea­son than that, and at times, he’d made close to $40 an hour do­ing it. Through the city, La­tee would earn just $8.25 an hour to go along with the $10.50 an hour at the glass-blow­ing pro­gram and the $100 he got ev­ery few weeks for work­ing odd jobs at the youth cen­ter.

“It’s worth it,” La­tee said. He just wanted to be able to take his girl­friend on dates to IHOP for choco­late pan­cakes or buy him­self a fresh set of $4 faux di­a­mond ear­rings.

For La­tee’s 16th birth­day, An­guiano, from BUILD, gave him $14, and his girl­friend bought him a blue watch and a vanilla-frosted cake coated with sprin­kles. He got noth­ing else but had saved enough cash to pay for an af­ter­noon at Dave & Buster’s.

La­tee’s street savvy and self­con­trol of­ten dis­guised that he was, in fact, still a kid. A kid who had never flown in an air­plane. Who some­times punc­tu­ated the “i” in his last name with a cir­cle rather than a dot. Who hadn’t shaved in a year but still pro­duced lit­tle more than a dark fuzz on his up­per lip. Who shared ju­ve­nile, pro­fane posts on Face­book and pho­tos of him­self flip­ping off the cam­era. Who, with his girl­friend, would in­vent silly char­ac­ters and pre­tend they were in com­edy shows to­gether.

La­tee hoped for more — to go to col­lege and maybe be­come an engi­neer be­cause he’d heard they needed to be good with their hands. But look­ing too far ahead, he thought, was danger­ous.

“I’ve gotta take my time,” he would say. “I can’t be rushed.”

La­tee didn’t know a sin­gle per­son from his cir­cle who’d made it out of Chicago and suc­ceeded, but sit­ting there in the au­di­to­rium, he did know that a 17-year-old friend of his had been shot in the knee down the street the night be­fore, and he did know there was a metal de­tec­tor in the school’s hall­way be­cause some­one had bragged about bring­ing a gun to an ear­lier ori­en­ta­tion ses­sion.

Now the room was full, and on the stage stood a woman in a dark pantsuit ex­plain­ing the im­por­tance of look­ing pro­fes­sional and mak­ing a good first im­pres­sion at a job in­ter­view.

“You guys have to be here be­cause you be­lieve that you de­serve to be here,” said N. LaQuis Harkins, an ac­tress who’d grown up in Chicago and at­tended Howard Uni­ver­sity.

She asked the 100 or so at­ten­dees to re­peat af­ter her, and most of them did.

“I am,” she said, then paused, “me.” “I am ready.” “I am smart.” “I am de­serv­ing.” Star­ing ahead from the sec­ond row, La­tee didn’t say a word as Harkins told them all to stand and try the ex­er­cise again.

Wor­thy. Ready. Here. De­serv­ing.

La­tee re­mained silent.

He sat amid a cool breeze on the front steps of a two-story red-brick house, and not once since com­ing out­side that evening had La­tee heard a siren wail or looked up from his phone to eye a pass­ing car. At the park across the street, sprawl­ing sycamores shaded clipped green grass and shiny blue play sets.

“Slow,” read a yel­low sign on a pole. “Chil­dren.” The tran­quil­ity was tem­po­rary. About eight months af­ter La­tee’s shoot­ing, his fam­ily had left Austin for an­other West Side neigh­bor­hood two miles away. Then that new home caught fire, de­stroy­ing al­most ev­ery­thing the Smiths owned, so the in­sur­ance com­pany had moved them just out­side Chicago to the red-brick house in Bell­wood, where the vil­lage motto is “Your Fam­ily is Our Fu­ture.”

“I wish we could stay,” La­tee said. “Ain’t got to worry about too much.”

But even on this placid block in Bell­wood, La­tee couldn’t en­tirely es­cape the city’s chaos.

He thumbed through Face­book and found one boy who had bragged about at­tack­ing an­other kid on a bus. One talked of “war,” and one posted three “bang” emoji to rep­re­sent gun­fire. One tagged a ri­val and, next to a devil emoji, wrote, “Betta go to the hos­pi­tal.” One added a photo of him­self point­ing a pis­tol at the cam­era. “Die,” wrote one, along­side the name of La­tee’s old gang.

It was Face­book, in fact, that had led to his own shoot­ing.

That March night, he’d run into a half-dozen friends who were headed to­ward an­other gang’s ter­ri­tory so they could take self­ies to mock their ri­vals on­line. They asked him to come.

La­tee hes­i­tated, but the boys re­as­sured him.

“We got a gun,” he re­called some­one say­ing.

Min­utes later, as La­tee glanced at his phone, the shoot­ing started. Pow, pow, pow. He froze. Then came a fourth shot and, just be­low his waist­line, a pinch.

La­tee dropped the phone and turned to run. He planted his left leg and then took one step with his right. It gave out, and he col­lapsed to the con­crete.

Sprawled on his back, La­tee heard a car pull up as blood soaked through his eighth-grade, navy blue school slacks.

It must have been a drive-by, he thought, and now the shooter had come to fin­ish him. His three friends who’d also been hit — ages 11, 14 and 16 — had all got­ten away. He was alone. La­tee played dead, clos­ing his eyes and cover­ing his face with his arm. He held his breath. He prayed.

“We got one shot,” he heard a by­stander tell a 911 op­er­a­tor on the phone, and at last, La­tee ex­haled.

Now, seven miles from where he’d ex­pected to die, La­tee rev­eled in th­ese quiet sum­mer mo­ments that he knew would soon end. His fam­ily couldn’t af­ford to re­main in the sub­urbs, but he was hope­ful he could avoid trou­ble when they re­turned to their re­paired West Side apart­ment build­ing, on a street where the teen had no gang ties and had made no en­e­mies. He could stay safe there, La­tee told him­self, even though two boys he knew, one 15 and the other 16, had just been killed three blocks away.

The kids on West Gla­dys Av­enue were go­ing to get ar­rested or shot. La­tee knew it, and so did his men­tor, Clifton “Booney” McFowler, who had just driven by and seen them on the drug cor­ner.

“Just about all them lit­tle dudes at one point I done grabbed them from some­where, man, to try to stop them,” said McFowler, stand­ing in the Austin youth cen­ter’s park­ing lot. “You know how I used to see you, ‘Man, Pee­wee, what you do­ing, man? Why you out here, man?’ ”

La­tee nod­ded as he spun a foot­ball in his hands.

McFowler, who wore his long, gray­ing dread­locks be­neath a re­versed black base­ball cap, was a leg­end in the neigh­bor­hood, an orig­i­nal mem­ber of the Cicero Un­der­taker Vice Lords. He had spent more than two decades in pri­son, serv­ing his last stint for mur­der. Since his re­lease in 2009, he had de­voted his life to per­suad­ing Austin’s next gen­er­a­tion to take a dif­fer­ent path.

“But they don’t lis­ten,” the 56year-old con­tin­ued. “They think they too far in where they can’t get out. But it ain’t like that, man. You can al­ways get out.”

“They prob­a­bly too scared to get out,” La­tee sug­gested.

“You gotta want it, and they don’t want it, and I’m get­ting frus­trated.”

McFowler had also spot­ted one of La­tee’s child­hood friends, and at the men­tion of his name, the teen paused.

“Dar­rion about the only one I re­ally love, though, man. He un­der­stand,” La­tee said. “The rest of them, they want me to stick around, but Dar­rion — like, I’ ll tell Dar­rion, ‘I’m gone,’ and he’ll be like, ‘All right, shortie. Keep it real.’ The rest of them be like, ‘No, stick around, man.’ ”

“I’m glad he ain’t on Adams, though,” McFowler said of the street where La­tee once dealt.

“That’s the worst one,” he agreed.

“It’s like ev­ery­body over there is doomed. In the mid­dle you’ve got the young kids, y’all’s age, then at the cor­ner you got the old group that done gave up,” McFowler said. “It’s doom all around, ev­ery­where you turn.”

But here was La­tee, who, for peo­ple work­ing at the youth cen­ter, rep­re­sented proof that change was pos­si­ble. It didn’t mat­ter that he wasn’t even a sopho­more yet. La­tee would make it out, they told him. He had to.

“I prom­ise,” McFowler said, “I don’t worry about you no more.” “Yeah,” La­tee mur­mured. “You no­tice I ain’t been in your ear or noth­ing no more. Be­cause you got it.”

“You al­ways used be in my ear, though.”

“But I ain’t got to,” McFowler said, point­ing, his voice steeped in cer­tainty. “Be­cause you got it, man.”

“Yeah,” La­tee said again, just above a whis­per, his voice de­void of cer­tainty.

La­tee peered across the room into the blaz­ing or­ange eye of a fur­nace. Amid the swel­ter in a gray-walled, high-ceilinged art stu­dio that once served as a fire­house, he waited for his turn to slip the tip of a steel pipe into the flames.

It had been a year since he’d started at the glass-blow­ing pro­gram, Project Fire, and nine boys, in­clud­ing La­tee, were work­ing to­gether for the sum­mer. He hadn’t met them all be­fore but knew what they had in com­mon.

There was the lanky guy in the white tank top, his shoul­der scarred from a bul­let that blew through it when he was 13. There was the thick­set for­mer foot­ball star who, at 16, had nearly bled to death af­ter be­ing shot while wait­ing for a school bus. There was the stocky teen who had been hit twice, first in the back and again, a month ago, in the thigh. There was the one whose skull had been frac­tured with a crow­bar and an­other whose ri­fle wound re­mained vis­i­ble on his an­kle and an­other, aided by a wooden cane, who still had a 9-mil­lime­ter round embed­ded near his spine. There were the two in wheel­chairs, one who hoped to walk again and the other who never would be­cause he no longer had legs.

Com­bined, they knew more than 120 peo­ple who had been killed in Chicago, but the boys weren’t talk­ing about any of that now. The work in the stu­dio de­manded fo­cus and, at least for a few hours, gave them an ex­cuse to for­get the deso­la­tion that had come to de­fine their lives and their city.

It was La­tee’s fi­nal shift of the week, and he’d planned some­thing spe­cial.

“Yel­low and black,” he told the teen with the bul­let still stuck in his back, so the young man hob­bled to a metal ta­ble and poured out two mounds of crushed glass, one in each color.

La­tee walked over with a pipe, wrapped on one end with molten ma­te­rial, as the roar­ing heat from a 2,300-de­gree fur­nace washed over him. The fire used to un­nerve La­tee, but its in­ten­sity now cen­tered him. He’d learned that the small­est er­ror could shat­ter the glass, and that threat made sense to him, be­cause he un­der­stood the steep cost of a mis­take.

La­tee pulled his pipe from the fur­nace, then rolled the glow­ing glob over the col­ored piles.

“You mak­ing a bowl, right?” some­one asked.

“A cup,” said La­tee, who planned to name it “Bum­ble­bee.”

He used a spoon-shaped piece of wood to mold it, then sculpted the knob with wet news­pa­per un­til he brushed his hand on a sear­ing hot pair of shears.

“Ah!” La­tee yelped, yank­ing his arm back as a rap song pulsed through a nearby speaker.

“It’s a cri­sis in my city, peo­ple dy­ing in my city, get­ting tor­tured in my city,” came the words, recorded by the young man with the an­kle wound.

La­tee tugged and sculpted, re­heated and cooled, and soon his cup, among the trick­i­est pieces he’d ever tried, had be­gun to take shape. He smiled.

“Some­body gonna buy it,” La­tee pre­dicted from be­hind his clear pro­tec­tive lenses.

He needed to warm the ma­te­rial once more be­fore fin­ish­ing, so he headed back to the fur­nace. Then, just as La­tee re­turned with the metal pipe to a work bench, his cup snapped off the end. It plum­meted to the floor, crash­ing against a metal sheet.

Heads turned. His teacher stopped. La­tee gasped. “Damn,” he said. From across the room rushed Pearl Dick, who co-founded the pro­gram. She leaned down with a thick pair of Kevlar mitts.

Dick turned the ob­ject in her hands, in­spect­ing each side.

Not a sin­gle chip, she told La­tee. His cup had sur­vived.

Re­lieved, he poured him­self a drink from a wa­ter cooler and took a seat by the open front door, away from the fire. His work for the day was done. La­tee had made it through the first week of a Chicago sum­mer. There were nine more left.

PHO­TOS BY RICKY CARIOTI/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

ABOVE: La­tee Smith, left, and his brother Daniel sit on a porch on Chicago’s West Side. BE­LOW: La­tee, a for­mer gang mem­ber in the West Side’s Austin neigh­bor­hood, shows the scar from his bul­let wound in a March 2016 shoot­ing.

PHO­TOS BY RICKY CARIOTI/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

La­tee Smith laughs with his girl­friend, Thalia Smith, at her home in Chicago’s North Lawn­dale neigh­bor­hood. Af­ter his shoot­ing, she in­sisted that La­tee spend more time with her to keep him off the streets.

Teenagers of­ten gather to hang out or, some­times, to sell drugs at Cicero and Gla­dys av­enues in the West Side’s Austin neigh­bor­hood. The in­ter­sec­tion is one of the most vi­o­lent in Chicago.

PHO­TOS BY RICKY CARIOTI/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

La­tee helps an­other teenager, Marco Thrasher, mold a pa­per­weight at Project Fire, a pro­gram that teaches wounded Chicago kids how to blow glass.

La­tee, black eye still vis­i­ble, sits in his Bell­wood liv­ing room. He hoped that he could stay safe when his fam­ily moved back to a danger­ous neigh­bor­hood on Chicago’s West Side.

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