On April 5, Chris Sweda shot the last high-rise at Cabrini-Green. Demolition began at the end of March, and continued through the month. In 1990, the late, great Chicago journalist Grant Pick profiled Cabrini-Green fixture Brother Bill Tomes:
Sometimes, gang members don’t want Tomes around, particularly when he positions himself in the middle of their gun battles. Having kept count, he says bullets have whizzed by in his vicinity a total of 28 times. Mostly they shoot at him to force him out of harm’s way, Tomes figures, but the tactic doesn’t work–he keeps coming. “That’s my vocation,” he says, “to love people and to be in conflict situations to prevent violence. Only if I’m willing to die for these kids can I change attitudes. If I do die in this way, it’s God’s pleasure.” He says he isn’t afraid when violence erupts; on the contrary, he feels immense joy, since he’s convinced he’s doing the Lord’s bidding.
The most dangerous turf at Cabrini-Green was long said to be Hobbie Field, an expanse of blacktop near adjoining buildings ruled by three separate gangs–the Disciples, the Vice Lords, and the Cobra Stones. On warm-weather afternoons and evenings, battles would break out there with bottles, pipes, and sometimes guns. In 1986, Jerry Drolshagen, a Jesuit seminarian, was skinned on the arm by a bullet while with Tomes at Hobbie Field. “We were with Vice Lords,” says Tomes, “and some Disciples ambushed us. We went back that same night to show we weren’t afraid.”
Photograph: Chicago Tribune
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