Mom loses second child to gun violence in four years. ‘That was my number one fear and it still happened.’


Natasha Graham spent Monday morning at the morgue to identify her daughter, the second child of hers to be shot to death in Chicago in the last four years.

Then she returned home and started planning the funeral for Kanesha Gaines, a 21-year-old mother of two children who was a “happy, outgoing person,” Graham said.

Gaines’ 2-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son know something is wrong, but Graham is still working out how to explain it to them. “My granddaughter keeps asking for mommy,” she said.

Gaines was at a backyard birthday party in the 1500 block of South Keeler Avenue when a black Jeep pulled up just before 1 a.m. Sunday and several gunmen opened fire, striking nine people, police said. 

Gaines, 21, was shot in the face and taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where she died.

“‘It’s been a hard thing to even accept that this is her,” Graham told the Sun-Times after leaving the morgue. “This can’t be her.”

The scene of a mass shooting that killed one and wounded nine the day before on Monday, July 31, 2023 in North Lawndale in Chicago.

The scene of a mass shooting that killed one and wounded nine the day before on Monday, July 31, 2023 in North Lawndale in Chicago.

Another woman, 28, was shot eight times and was taken to the same hospital in critical condition. She was still “fighting for her life” on Monday, according to community activist Andrew Holmes, who met with family members. 

A man, 20, and five other women, ages 24 to 33, were also wounded in the attack, police said. All the women had been at the party. The man later showed up at a hospital and said he had been shot in that area, but it was not clear if he was part of the gathering.

Police said they don’t know what was behind the shooting and have no one in custody.

Graham said she was always a tough parent but became even more strict with her girls after her 18-year-old son Keshaun was fatally shot in 2019.

“My teenage and preteen girls — I don’t let them go outside,” Graham said. “I’ve tried, I’ve tried, but I just can’t…I’d be so afraid of something happening.

“You fear to lose another kid — that was my number one fear and it still happened.”

Gaines was planning to move back home with her mother on the South Side this Tuesday “but we never got there,” Graham said.

Graham said she was so proud of the young woman Gaines was becoming.

“She was so happy to get that job this year with home health care,” Graham said. “She told me, ‘I finally found that job I could do, I found something that I like and I can do it.’”

The Sunday before the shooting, Gaines had come over to cook a Sunday meal for her mother — T-bone steaks, macaroni and mashed potatoes.

“I went through a lot with her during her teenage years. But she came to m, and she told me … ’I get it. I understand,” Graham said. “We started to have a really good relationship.”

The family has started a GoFundMe page to raise money for the funeral. The page had raised $965 of its $20,000 goal as of Monday afternoon.

The day after the attack, community groups and police gathered at the Deliverance Temple Church of the Apostolic Faith down the block to offer crisis counseling and make police available to answer questions.


People walk towards Deliverance Temple Church on Monday, July 31, 2023 in North Lawndale.

The purpose of the temporary center was to help victims “get on the path to healing,” said Aileen Robinson, assistant director of CPD’s Crime Victim Services.

She said city officials had just returned from visiting two cities where this is done. “We are aligning with what is going on in the country,” Robinson said.

Inside the church, counselors sat at tables with brochures outlining the services available to them: a pamphlet about CPD’s crime victim services, another about the Center on Halsted’s anti-violence protect. 

Stress balls and play-doh were piled on the table. Two therapy dogs from Lutheran Church Charities sat on the entranceway floor waiting to be petted.

Ald. Monique Scott (24th) praised the city for organizing the resource center in less than a day. But she pointed out that the room was filled almost completely with outreach workers — with no apparent victims or their neighbors.

Ald. Monique Scott (24th) speaks on Monday, July 31, 2023 in Deliverance Temple Church in Chicago.

Ald. Monique Scott (24th) speaks on Monday, July 31, 2023 in Deliverance Temple Church in Chicago.

“We do have to start knocking on some doors,” Scott said. “We must find a different approach because what happened the other day, it was disheartening.”

An outreach worker outside the church told a reporter that the police presence outside the church would likely scare away any victims who needed help.

Waller said he hoped the center would build relationships with the community.

“My experience is that when we extend our hand and show that we’re trying to support these victims, it gives us a lot of equity in the community and that’s what we’re trying to do,” he said. “We’re trying to show these people that we care about them just as much as if they lived in Gold Coast.”

This is the second time in a year the city has held a centralized outreach service following a mass shooting. The first was held at Lawndale center the violence prevention group UCAN after 14 people were shot Oct. 31 in the 800 block of South California Avenue.

Frank Perez, a director at UCAN, said Monday’s outreach center was unique because it offered more services from the city.

“It is valuable,” he said. “People know that we care. Not-for-profits, CPD, the city does care.”

Kade Heather contributed


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