About Salvador Contreras
Over the years Salvador "Chava" Contreras would sit down with his parents and his older brothers and promise them that he would not be sucked into the gang life that has claimed so many others in their Gage Park neighborhood.
Contreras, 18, who was the youngest of four children, instead chose to focus on soccer, his beloved past time, his family said. He would often spend hours watching games on television and playing soccer at Gage Park High School, which he attended, and nearby Marquette Park, said his brother Daniel, 21.
But early Saturday morning, Contreras was wounded in a drive-by shooting. He died the next day, making him the 20th Chicago Public Schools student to die this school year, the 18th by gunfire. Although Contreras liked to dress in the hip-hop style popular among many teens, Contreras promised his family that the style did not mean he was embroiled in gangs, said Daniel Contreras, who was trusted to keep an eye on him. Contreras had one arrest as an adult, misdemeanor retail theft, and the case was dropped.
But Chicago police believe that Salvador Contreras' death was gang-related, though they are not saying whether he was involved in gangs himself.
Salvador Contreras often told his family that gangs and violence were common at the high school, but his family believed it would not affect him.
"He was always with me. I never saw him with gangs or any friends who were in gangs. He knew that if he got involved with them I would lay down the law," said his brother.
Contreras was shot at about 4 a.m. Saturday on the 5800 block of South Hamlin Avenue. Daniel Contreras said his brother and his friends were listening to music outside of a home, the site of a birthday party.
A fast-moving car drove by, and witnesses told Contreras' brother that someone fired five bullets. Contreras was struck once in the stomach and died on Sunday, his brother said.
Police were looking for a dark-colored vehicle, police said. No one was in custody.
Daniel Contreras said he had dropped his brother off at the party. He last spoke to his brother at about 10 p.m. Friday when he telephoned Salvador to ask if he wanted Daniel to pick him up. A friend called him several hours later to tell him that "Chava" had been shot.
School officials said Contreras was a senior, but his brother said he had two years left until he graduated. Salvador Contreras took last year off to work with his mother at a local Mexican restaurant and help out his family financially, his brother said.
Daniel Contreras said his family, including Salvador, emigrated from Guadalajara, Mexico, about eight years ago to join their extended family here.
"He wanted to make something of himself," Daniel Contreras said. "Because of somebody else, God took him. What do these gang members gain by killing people? They gain nothing."