Shot: Jackie Mays (brother) Age 26, Endia Martin (niece) Age 14
Case summary: In 1999, right after Philip returned to Chicago after serving in the Navy, his brother Jackie Mays was shot and killed in a gang-related incident. Case status: Unsolved
Case summary: In 2014, Endia Martin, 14, became tangled in a “social media feud” over a boy. According to the Chicago Tribune, Endia was shot and killed by another 14-year-old girl, after her aunt, Vanetta Redwood, age 34, handed her a loaded .38 caliber pistol and told her, “Shoot the bitch!” Redwood had been given the gun moments before by Donnell Flora, Endia’s uncle. Case status: Donnell Flora sentenced to 100 years in prison for giving his 14-year-old niece the revolver she allegedly used to kill Endia. Redwood faces federal charges as well. The alleged shooter was facing a jury trail for murder charges at the time of this writing.
If you live by the gun, you die by the gun,” Philip Walker says, as he recounts the day his brother, who’d been in a gang, was shot and killed in an act of retaliation.
“I was 24, fresh home from the Navy,” he said. Philip is a large man, his presence commanding and impossible to ignore, but his eyes look like those of a man who’s seen his share of tragedy. “I been shot at, I’d done some shooting,” he said.
Philip says his mother was on drugs. She and her six children often lived in a homeless shelter. Eventually, he was taken in by his grandmother, JoEllyn Walker, a woman “small in stature, but she was big. She was my best friend.” Her love, however, was often tough. “She knew when I was lying, and tell me, ‘I don’t need that. If you gonna lie to me, don’t talk to me.’ See, that’s learned behavior. You got to learn to tell the truth, to love on someone. Learned behavior. She always made me go to church, made me sing in the youth choir, and I can’t even sing.”
That strategy didn’t keep him completely on track. “I’d leave church and go smoke weed and be gang banging,” he admits. “I believe we all have our vices.”
At his grandmother’s urging, he enlisted in the Navy after high school, where he says he learned “respect, discipline, accountability, and how to work well with other people. I had anger issues, but they don’t tolerate that. The military was one of the best things for me.”
He came back to Roseland, and soon after that, his brother was shot and killed. Philip wanted to avoid his brother’s fate, to live differently. He applied to become a police office, but then, unfortunately, he says, “I caught a case.” What does that mean?
“Two counts of armed violence, armed robbery. I got 21 to 45 years,” he explains.
He spent 17 months in Cook County Jail, then bonded out. He appealed his case for two years. In the meantime, he got married. He and his wife were expecting a baby.
He returned to jail to serve a reduced sentence of five years, including the time he’d already served. With time off for good behavior while in jail, he ended up only having to serve five months more. He was released two weeks before his daughter was born.
Her birth in 2004, he says, changed his life. He worked while attending truck driving school at night. He wanted a better life for his daughter than what he saw around him in Roseland. His niece, Endia, for example, was allegedly shot and killed by another 14-year-old girl over a social media feud. According to public records, the alleged shooter’s uncle, Donnell Flora, brought a gun to the confrontation. He was sentenced to 100 years in jail for his role in bringing the gun. Vanetta Redwood, 34, the shooter’s aunt, allegedly handed the teenage girl shooter a loaded revolver, and telling her, “shoot the b****!” Endia died and another girl was wounded.
Philip drove a truck for several years until back pain took him off the road. He ran the thrift store at Roseland Christian Ministries for three years, and is just starting to drive a truck again. He and his wife divorced, but he has shared custody of his daughter. He wants to start a ministry here. He’s lost not only his brother and niece, but several friends, to gun violence.
“I want to open up a boys home called Men of Impact here in Roseland,” he says. “If you never show them how to be a person of integrity, they’re not going to be them. If you can build that in, that’s …learned behavior.”
Despite the people its streets have taken from him, Philip loves Roseland. “My heart longs to be here. It’s a beautiful place, a lot of great people. We just need some help. And I don’t know what that would look like. If I did, I’d go get it.”