A promising 18-year-old senior at Urban Prep Academies in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood died in a shooting last week on the city's South Side, according to a letter addressed to the school community.
Rashad Verner was a member of the football team who the school's founder said was an engaging student who was full of promise and aspired to go to college.
"We had every expectation that he was going to go to the next level and be successful and had really high hopes for him," said Tim King, founder and CEO of Urban Prep Academies.
Even though the school year had just begun, Verner had already been identified by the principal as someone who should be recognized at the Class of 2021’s commencement for his outstanding demonstration of Urban Prep’s core values of resilience, selflessness and solidarity, according to the letter from the school.
At approximately 1:24 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 28 in the 700 block of South Paxton, police were called to a home and found Varner, who was unresponsive, with a gunshot wound, according to Chicago police. The 18-year-old was taken to the University of Chicago Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.
A second victim, a 19-year-old man, sustained a gunshot wound to the shoulder and back and was said to be in fair condition. Details about what led up to the shooting haven't been released.
So far, no arrests have been made.
"It's impossible for any of us to know the circumstances," King said. "This is the guy who was engaged in remote learning and...in previous years was successful in his classes... Going off to...we think, to do great and spectacular things."
According to the school, what makes Verner's death more disturbing, is that he was fatally shot at around 1:30 p.m. In a typical year, he would've been in school at the time.
King, who has run the academy since 2010, has seen 100% of students attend colleges or universities. In the letter to the school community, he said in order to stop violence, people must work every day for peace, justice and equality.
"We got to be serious about battling gun violence, fighting to get kids back in school, just as serious as battling COVID-19," King added. "It’s not an either or. We have to do it all at the same time otherwise we will continue to see this level of tragedy."