Chicago street worker puts his advice into practice after being shot

As a “outreach worker” for an anti-violence group, Bilaal Evans advises young men at risk of being victims or perpetrators of violent crimes to lay down their arms. Don’t let petty quarrels turn into blood feuds.

On December 23, Evans got the chance to take his own advice.

The man who spent 15 years in jail for a murder he says he didn’t commit was driving through Englewood with his wife and children when a car pulled up beside them near the block 6700 South Morgan Street.

Evans was hit in the back of the head, but only grazed.

The car carrying the shooters circled the block, presumably coming back for another lap. That’s when Evans’ cold-blooded woman jumped out of the car with their baby in her arms to show the shooters they had the wrong car.

Evans had spoken to rivals of the shooters as part of his street outreach work and they mistakenly assumed that Evans was part of that faction.

With his own life threatened and the safety of his family in danger, Evans could easily have chosen to fight back. After all, retaliation is the root of so many shootings in Chicago.

Instead, Evans took to the highways. He tries to negotiate a truce between the two warring factions.

On Thursday Evans told the heart-wrenching but uplifting story of that shooting and its aftermath, which happened after he loaded his family into the car to hand over money to “one of my participants who needed money “.

“I am always aware that there is always a conflict with different factions on the streets. They were already going back and forth with different people on social media, ”he said.

“When I pulled up in the OR I went to the gate, gave the guy the money and left,” Evans said. The shooters, he said, must have thought “I was one of the youngsters and they followed my car.”

When they opened fire, “they shot me 20 times… thank God the bullet hit me sideways and came out without doing any serious damage. I was released from the hospital about three hours later.

Former US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who accompanied Evans to the Sun-Times interview, was in a way Evans’s mentor. He called the gall sore a “Christmas miracle.”

“The only reason Bilaal survived is because he leaned forward to grab a piece of chicken. If he hadn’t leaned forward he would have been killed.… That’s why he did that. went through the head, not the head, ”Duncan said.

“The car turns around to come back and finish the job. Bilaal tries to cover his son. And his wife goes out with their little baby, holds the baby up to show people, ‘This is not the right car. You have the wrong people. And thank goodness the shooters turn away and don’t come back.

Former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Duncan runs a nonprofit organization for at-risk youth known as Chicago CRED, which stands for Creating True Economic Destiny.

The group operates in 15 of Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods, targeting around 500 young men, aged 17 to 24, who are disconnected from work and school and most at risk of being victims or perpetrators of gun violence. .

Even though Evans survived, Duncan said his protégé’s shooting shook him deeply.

“When I went to see him afterwards. … I kind of asked him, “What do you want to happen here?” Do you want revenge? Do you want retaliation? And he said, ‘No. I want to use this as leverage to create more peace in the community, ”Duncan said.

“Within hours, Bilaal knew who had done it. They apologized. And rather than seeking revenge – rather than doing anything – he works with this group to create peace. They knew they had done the wrong thing.

And the lesson learned?

“You can’t seek reconciliation and redemption if you can’t give it,” Duncan said.

Evans was asked about the relentless gun violence that prompted Chicago to end the year with 836 homicides.

“There is an old saying that it takes a whole village to raise a child. But when the village sees the children as invisible, they will burn it down. This is exactly what is happening today, ”he said.

“There is a great apathy and appalling silence brewing for years. This is the result. … It has been suppurating for decades. And the fix will take decades. …. It will take a reparation-type investment, from kindergarten to the juvenile justice system, including the prison system and the education system.

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