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Family mourns 13-year-old boy fatally shot in West Ridge park

Family members are mourning the loss of Lavell Winslow, a 13-year-old boy shot and killed Friday night at a West Ridge neighborhood park.

“Hi smile. I’m just going to miss him coming in and talking to me, laying his head on my shoulder,” the boy’s mother, Vanessa Winslow, told the Tribune on Saturday.

Lavell, the last of Vanessa Winslow’s five children, got good grades in school and was “extremely smart,” she said. The West Ridge Elementary School eighth-grader had just been moved into an advanced math class.

He wanted to work in computer technology or construction when he graduated high school, his mother said. She could already see his bright future.

Lavell would have turned 14-years-old a week before Christmas, Vanessa Winslow said. She’ll remember her son’s excitement around the holidays, she added.

“He was fun to be around. Social, kind, just a lovable young man. He had lots of friends that adored him because he was so kind and nice,” she said.

Lavell had gone to the North Side’s Lerner Park to celebrate a friend’s birthday. But another boy had brought a gun, Vanessa Winslow said. The other boy fired the gun, apparently unaware that a bullet was loaded, she added. Her son was shot in the head.

Shortly before 10 pm, an off-duty Chicago police officer heard a loud pop and saw a “large group” of teenagers fleeing on foot, according to a Chicago police report.

The officer called police after finding Lavell under a gazebo in the middle of the park, seated on a bench and bleeding from the gunshot wound to the head, police said.

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Lavell, who lived in the neighborhood where the shooting happened, was taken to St. Francis Hospital in Evanston in critical condition, but was pronounced dead there at 11:45 pm, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. An autopsy Saturday determined Lavell died of a gunshot wound to the head and his death was ruled a homicide.

One shell casing was found near his body but no one was in custody, the report said.

“My son was a great kid,” Lavell’s father, Jeffery Brown, said. “He had a really good heart.”

Lavell played basketball and football, his father said. He told his dad that he dreamed of becoming a hockey player some day. The 13-year-old could take a phone and make it do things Brown didn’t know were possible, Brown said.

Brown felt that his son had been affected by peer pressure and had begun to hang out with the wrong people while hiding that from his parents, a challenge he senses many children face.

“He had all the right opportunities. He had all the right support,” he added.

On Saturday morning, he said he was thinking about how much he loved his son.

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