Families Protest Juarez HS Over Inaction of December Shooting

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

By: Ashmar Mandou

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local NewsFamilies braved the bitter temperatures Wednesday morning outside of the Chicago Board of Education Office to call on Benito Juarez High School to do more after two teens were killed outside the school property back in December. Family members of Brandon Perez, Nathan Billegas, and Brian Arellano expressed their disappointment over the investigation of the crime and vocalized their frustration with staff at Juarez HS over the lack of response, attributing it to racial discrimination.

“If it had occurred in a white or more prominent area, this would have already been resolved, but because we are poor and Hispanic the principal and the CPS have completely ignored our request for even a meeting,” said Nanette Hernandez, grandmother of Nathan Billegas. The families of the victims were joined by 25th Ward Alderman Byron Sigcho Lopez to protest what they call “disrespectful” response following the shooting. Gunfire went off on December 17 just outside the Benito Juarez campus. Killed in the shooting were 15-year-old Brandon Perez, a Benito Juarez student, and his friend, 14-year-old Nathan Billegas, a freshman at Chicago Bulls College Prep.

“Our institutions have already so deeply failed these families. The least we can do now is swiftly proceed with this investigation, respecting and being responsive to inquiries from the family and providing regular updates from detectives, while also creating a world where no family suffers this kind of preventable agony again. I understand the latter is a big ask in a country that is suffering mass shootings on nearly a daily basis, but the stakes demand urgency. No one wants to pay this price in their family. We must act. We know that 3000-5000 young people in CPS are in imminent risk of being involved in gun violence in the near future. Every day we don’t act with a full spectrum of wrap around services to divert their potential of being involved in gun violence is a day we failed to live up to our responsibility to do everything we can to prevent another tragedy,” said Ald. Sigcho-Lopez.

“We are shocked and outraged that Principal Ocón, CPS executives and the Board of Education have shown so much disregard and disdain for the victims of this tragedy. We will demand an answer and we will not rest until justice has been served for the victims, their families and the community. We will demand that CPS implement programs of safety and security and that federal and state funds be used to ensure that this type of tragedy does not occur anymore in our communities,” said Netza Roldan, CEO of the Binational Institute of Human Development.

On January 12, the families sent a letter to Principal Ocón demanding a meeting with him and the school’s Chief of Safety & Security, representatives from Chicago Public Schools, the Board of Education, and Detective in Charge John Korolis, Chicago Police Department. According to Ald. Sigcho-Lopez no response was received and no meeting was arranged.

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