Tanika Williams

 

Age: 36
Shot: Darnell (son) Age 17

Case summary: On Dec. 12, 2013, Darnell Williams came home from work, changed clothes and left again. A moment later, gunshots rang out in the street. Tanika and her daughters ran outside to find Darnell on the ground, two houses away from his front door, gasping and bleeding. He’d been shot multiple times in an apparent case of mistaken identity. Case status: Unsolved.

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His elderly neighbors in Roseland loved Darnell Williams. “He was helpful, handy,” his mother Tanika said. “At his funeral, there were 400 people. Four hundred! I was surprised how many older people were there, telling me things like, ‘he painted my kitchen’ or ‘he fixed my car.’”

Tanika has lived on the same block in Roseland for 35 years. “We’re a tight knit block,” she says. “But in our neighborhood, you can get killed for just associating with someone.” 

Darnell had quit school. “I was mad, that he dropped out, but he didn’t drop out just to hang out.” Darnell worked part-time jobs: at a funeral home, and a rehabilitation center, and did odd jobs in the neighborhood: car repairs, painting, handyman jobs.

“He liked money,” his mother said. “But he tried to get it the legal way.” 

On Dec. 12, 2013, Darnell Williams came home from work, changed clothes and told his mother he was just going down the block to pay his phone bill. A moment later, gunshots rang out. Tanika and her daughters ran outside to find Darnell on the ground, just two houses away from his front door. He’d been shot multiple times in an apparent case of mistaken identity.

The paramedics refused to allow Tanika to ride in the ambulance with her son, and as they drove away, she couldn’t help but notice they did not turn on the lights or sirens.  She knew it was an ominous sign. “Still, I was hoping…” she says. She wipes away a tear. “They told me they were taking him to Christ (Hospital). Friends drove me to Christ, but when we got there, he wasn’t there. …Turns out they took him to Little Company of Mary (Hospital). Because he was gone.”  She had to wait an hour at the hospital before being able to see Darnell’s body.


The hurt never stops. It comes out of nowhere. I have to be strong for me, for them. Sometimes I punch a wall, really. Or I sit in the bathroom, just sit there and cry. I don’t sleep at night.

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Her family believes they know who is responsible, but so far, no charges have been filed. “It’s 2016 now, and there’s still no justice.”

She remembers a gathering at her home, remembering Darnell’s birthday. She and the friends and family walked to the corner to release balloons in his memory, when a cop drove past and told them to get back in their own yard. She tried to tell him she just wanted to walk to the corner and release the balloons, and the cop told her, “I don’t give a f*** about that!”

Tanika has four other children: her daughters Saten, 21 (who has three children of her own); Angel, 10; and Heaven, 9; and a son Darius, 19. Darius and his young child and girlfriend live with her as well. They all share a two-flat building that Tanika’s family owns.

“The hurt never stops,” this youthful looking grandmother says. “It comes out of nowhere. I have to be strong for me, for them. Sometimes I punch a wall, really. Or I sit in the bathroom, just sit there and cry. I don’t sleep at night.”

Despite her pain, Tanika has hope. “I got a big support system, here at Roseland (Christian Ministries). I think we could get our neighborhood back,” she says. “When I was growing up here, there was the YMCA, and rec centers. We need that.” She recalled going to YMCA summer camp as a kid.

“It didn’t cost $400 or $500 like it does now. People don’t have that kind of money. They have a lot of stuff for kids to do, but it’s expensive.” 

The nearby Kroc Center (the Joan & Ray Kroc Corps Community Center) offers swimming pool, rec center, and a variety of classes. But at $10 per person for a day pass, she could not afford to take her five children there when they were younger.  

“How you supposed to do that? What if you paid your rent that day?” she asks.

“You can’t go to the park, they shoot up the park,” she said. “Sometimes we get on the bus and go downtown, to Maggie Daley Park, or someplace. But we need something here in Roseland for them.”