Mother of Slain Son: Guns in Evanston ‘Still An Issue’
Carolyn Murray, whose sun, Justin, was shot and killed in November, met with President Obama in February. “He said that he heard about Evanston," she told the council. "I don’t know if that’s good or bad."
Returning from a meeting with President Barack Obama, Evanston mother Carolyn Murray—whose son, Justin, was shot and killed in November—had some strong words for the city council.
“I’m here because it has been three months since Justin was killed,” she told aldermen during a meeting Monday. “The growing concern about guns is still an issue for me.”
Justin Murray was shot and killed at age 19 on Nov. 29, 2012, in front of his grandmother’s house at 1818 Brown Ave. More than three months later, police are still investigating the shooting and have not taken anyone into custody yet.
Murray met with President Obama while attending his State of the Union Address in February as a guest of U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky. Schakowsky was one of several House Democrats who invited guests affected by gun violence to the address, as a way of advocating for gun safety measures.
In her meeting with Obama, Murray said that the president gave her his contact information and promised his support.
“He wanted to reiterate that he was 100 percent supporting us in getting the guns and the violence under control,” she said. “He said that he heard about Evanston, which I don’t know if that’s good or bad, coming from President Obama.”
Locally, Murray is an advocate of gun safety herself, and has been since long before her son was shot and killed. She began trying to organize a gun buyback program last summer, as part of her role as co-chair of the West Evanston Strategic Team community group. Not long after 14-year-old Evanston Township High School Student Dajae Coleman was shot and killed in September, the city approved her group’s idea for a gun buyback program, which was held on Dec. 15.
In a tragic irony, her son, Justin, was shot and killed just two weeks before the gun buyback program.
In the weeks since her son’s death, Murray told the council that she was dissatisfied not only with the lack of resolution in her son’s case, but also with the police department’s level of communication with her. She said the city of Evanston should consider instituting a policy on how and when to contact families about unsolved murders.
Someone from the police department should contact the family of a murder victim immediately, then after one week, after 30 days, after 60 days and annually after that, Murray said.
“I have been contacted by two families indirectly saying that they feel they don’t have that level of communication,” she said, referring to other families whose relatives had been killed. “I think it’s something that should be considered.”
By her count, Murray said there were 32 unsolved murders in Evanston.
“So that’s 32 families out there,” she said.
According to Evanston Police Cmdr. Jason Parrott, the police department does not have a formal policy on when to contact families, but he said that detectives were in “constant contact” with Murray and other victim’s families.
He said the department assigns detectives to investigate a homicide, who regularly contact the family, as well as a victim witness counselor, who helps communicate what’s going on and answer questions from the family.
“There’s not a specific timeline,” he said, “but we do have concern for the family.”
Speaking to reporters at a press conference about 2012 crime statistics last week, Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington said the department was continuing to investigate the deaths of Justin Murray and Javar Bamberg, who was shot and killed Dec. 12.
“Homicide investigations are long, complex endeavors,” he said. “If you look at the Brown’s Chicken murders, that was an incredibly long haul for the Palatine Police Department.”
“There’s two people that really remember the victims,” he added. “It’s the family and the cop. We continue to work on cold cases that are over 20 years old.”