Gave Bates smiled through tears as she swiped her hand across her phone, flipping through pictures of her cousin playing around and striking goofy poses.
"He was a lot of fun, very good at imitating people," Bates said of Nathaniel T. Jackson, 40. "He just had so much fun all the time. And we all grew up together in the same house."
Jackson was standing outside a store in the Austin neighborhood around 9 p.m. Thursday when someone walked up and shot him in the head, police said. His death was the 500th homicide in Chicago this year, marking a grim milestone. The city last reached that toll in 2008.
Jackson grew up on the West Side, a few miles away from where he was gunned down, and had been released from prison this past summer after serving a sentence for robbery. He had been shot several years ago, after an earlier stint in jail, and Bates said she constantly warned him to be careful on the street.
"The last time he was out, someone had shot him several times, in the back," Bates said as she stood outside Stroger Hospital, where Jackson was pronounced dead. "He was a fighter, he was a survivor."
Police had no motive on the shooting outside Noah Foods at Augusta Boulevard and Lavergne Avenue. No one was in custody.
Police tapped on apartment windows and knocked on doors looking for witnesses. A few bullet casings, which police believed were from a .45-caliber handgun, were found near the blood-stained sidewalk in front of the store.
Jackson's family sat for three hours in a waiting room at Stroger Hospital when staff members finally walked in and told them Jackson had died. Relatives stood up and exchanged tight embraces.
Bates said her cousin had been staying with a family friend after his release from prison in August. "We grew up on the West Side, over on Monroe and Homan. And then we got a little older, my grandmother moved us up on Kedzie and Armitage. And boy, was he a feisty one," she said.
As of Thursday night, homicides were up 17 percent over last year in Chicago, and shootings had increased by 11 percent, according to police statistics.