Mother mourns death of ‘nice and loving’ teenage son in Washington Park, which left 2 dead and 8 injured

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Khalil Denny, 19, was watching a softball game in Washington Park with his friends last Tuesday when he was fatally shot.

It’s something he’d done a few times over the past summer, enjoying the game in the park near his house, said Lanette Denny, his mother. But Tuesday night’s game ended in tragedy.

“I don’t think our teens are safe here in Chicago anymore,” Denny, 49, said Wednesday night, not far from where her son was killed.

Just after 5 p.m. in Washington Park, a group of about 50 people, most with Acclivus, released purple, white and black balloons in memory of last week’s dead and injured. Acclivus, a community organization dedicated to reducing violence in Chicago’s most vulnerable neighborhoods, hosted the event.

Previously, at home, Lanette Denny had doubts and had no intention of launching the balloon in honor of her son and Lionel Coward, 43, who also died in the shooting. Eight others were injured.

But with the support of Octavia Mitchell, founder of Heal Your Heart, an organization she founded to support grieving mothers, Denny found the strength to go to the park.

Khalil Denny would have turned 20 this Friday and instead of celebrating his birthday, his family will be hosting his funeral.

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Acclivus also hosted softball games in Washington Park and other parks to promote peace in neighborhoods where residents experience high crime rates.

Last Tuesday, a fight that started in the parking lot spilled over to where community members like Denny watched the game, said Gwen Baxter, a patient follow-up coordinator and trauma treatment specialist at Acclivus.

Khalil Denny, a shoe salesman, was a “fun and loving person” who loved shoes and shopping, his mother said. He was getting ready for his upcoming birthday and had just received a new bottle of cologne on Tuesday night, his mother said.

“He sprayed it all on himself,” she said. “Everyone who was here… said, ‘He just hugged me. He told me he loved me.’ I said because he just put on that Dior scent he just got.’”

Khalil was her youngest of seven children and the second son she has lost.

Exactly eight years ago, on September 21, 2014, she lost her second youngest son, 16-year-old Vincent Denny. He would now be 24 years old.

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Denny was part of Mitchell’s group and helped organize events for other grieving mothers.

Now grieving for two of her sons, Denny would like to move into a new home with fewer neighbors and some privacy, she said. She has been on the Section 8 waiting list since 2008, she said. She has lived in the same apartment since 1998.

“I definitely can’t sit on the porch or walk to the park or anything,” Denny said. “Absolutely can’t come to the park.”

Mitchell said she’s tired of attending vigils and balloon flights.

“What do we do? How does it end? When does it end?” said Mitchell. “Who’s going to help us? Who’s trying to help us? I’m constantly asking for help.”

She said she would like government leaders to help women provide funding to seek counseling, cover health care costs, provide benefits to grieving mothers and help them with moving costs, especially those on low incomes. like Denny.

“You want them to lose their child, bury their child and go back to work two weeks later,” Mitchell said. “How’s that? How?”

She said she would like a bill in Springfield that would provide benefits to mothers who have lost their children.

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Baxter said the Chicago Park District has since revoked the group’s license, despite the shooting unrelated to the game of softball.

Acclivus will contact police and the corresponding councilor when they plan to host a game, Baxter said. She called on the park district to reinstate the organization’s game-hosting licenses.

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“To take this away is like wanting to continue the violence,” Baxter said. “People came together.”

The games bring out the community and get to know each other better, and help police see community members in a positive space, said Barron Neal, Washington Heights supervisor at Acclivus.

“The aim of the game is just to keep the peace,” he said. “It’s just to get the community involved.”

Illinois State Rep. Kam Buckner said government leaders should invest in communities to provide more safe spaces.

“Everyone in this city deserves safe spaces to gather and gather and have fun,” Buckner said. “Unfortunately, we have seen that more and more those in power have taken those spaces from us.”

He called on elected officials to invest money to tackle gun violence in the same way the government invested in tackling COVID-19.

“If we don’t release money,” Buckner said. “We will continue to release balloons.”

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