Mother of Slain Man Continues Fight For Justice

courtesy of Tommy Lee's family

Marsha Lee wants answers.

On August 13, 2008, she lost her son Thomas "Tommy" Lee after he was shot to death in Harvey, Illinois. The 20-year-old man had just left a store when the tragic incident occurred. While Lee says there were witnesses, the Harvey Police Department still has no one in custody.

At the time of his death, Tommy was a student at McCoy Barber College in Chicago with dreams of owning a shop.  As a final tribute, the young man's family buried him in his barber cape.  

Four years later, Mrs. Lee and her ex-husband, Thomas, still feel the pain of losing their son. Despite their divorce, she makes it clear that Tommy had a strong relationship with both of his parents. "I was not a single mom--only divorced," says the Blue Island, Illinois resident. 

Lee, employed by the Chicago Transit Authority for over 30 years, works hard to challenge stereotypes about her son and crime victims in general. "People always blame the victim," says the grieving mother. "They are not understanding the impact that violence is having on society--whether directly or indirectly."

She says that her son was "a great person," who was "compassionate and giving" and a member of Mt. Zion Church on Chicago's South Side--where he played drums, worked as a sound technician and a summer camp counselor. 

Now, Ms. Lee bangs her own drum to bring Tommy's killer to justice. 

"Harvey [police] need to actively investigate and stop covering for the accomplice.  Witnesses say they identified the shooter, but the police say they did not," she recounts.

In April 2011, former WTTW-TV reporter Nick Shields reported about the Harvey Police Department being scrutinized by residents and Cook County officials for how it had been handling homicide investigations. 

At the time, Shields could not get Harvey's police chief to speak on camera but a spokeswoman from the city affirmed that they "don't rest" until justice is served. 

Yet in 2010, the department asked for help in solving its numerous homicide cases. It requested to join the South Suburban Major Crime Task Force (SSMCTF)--which has additional resources to solve crimes. According to the WTTW report,  the Harvey Police Department still had major obstacles in their pursuit of membership including the number of homicides and some communication mishaps.

Last week, the task force assisted  police in Dolton, Illinois with investigating the beating death of a 16-year-old girl at a motel. A few weeks earlier, the group supported another investigation involving a man shot to death in South Holland, Illinois. Given its recent successes, Lee and other surviving relatives of victims continue to wonder why Harvey can't find a way to compromise with SSMCTF. 

As they await information leading to an arrest, Tommy's family continues to find ways to preserve his memory.

On Saturday, July 7,  at 1 p.m., there will be a city-wide memorial hosted by Logos Baptist Assembly at 10833 South Halsted in Chicago. Other families affected by  gun violence will gather to remember their loved ones at the event organized by Pastor Donald Parsons and WVON-AM radio host Mark J. Wallace. Many of them share Ms. Lee's pain because the killers of their family members have not been brought to justice either. 

Lee gives a troubling prediction about what will happen if things don't change soon. 

"Until those not affected by violence stand up, it will continue." 

~ Zack The Producer

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