Mother remembers son who was killed by gun violence in July

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Mother remembers son who was killed by gun violence in July

On July 3, 2021, Lourdes Lara received the worst news of her life. In the early morning hours of that day, her son, Chrys Carvajal, 19, was killed in a drive-by shooting in Chicago’s Belmont Cragin neighborhood.
From left, Brittney Carvajal, Lourdes Lara and Jennifer Ramirez look at family photos at their family home on Sept. 23, 2021, of Chrys Carvajal, 19, a National Guardsman killed in a random shooting July 4th weekend. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Chrys Carvajal (Photo provided)
Chry is baptized at St. Mark Church. His mother received her First Communion and confirmation that day too. (Photo provided)
Chrys (far right) and his family at his sister's quinceanera celebration. (Photo provided)
Lourdes Lara, Chrys Carvajal’s mother, prays the rosary at the end of a peace walk in Chicago’s Belmont Cragin neighborhood on Aug. 28, 2021. She and her family wore T-shirts with Carvajal’s photo on them and spoke about his killing at a stop on the walk. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

On July 3, Lourdes Lara received the worst news of her life. In the early morning hours of that day, her son, Chrys Carvajal, 19, was killed in a drive-by shooting in Chicago’s Belmont Cragin neighborhood.

Carvajal, recently home from basic training in the Illinois National Guard and awaiting an assignment to a guard post, was at a house party when he went out to his car for something and was shot in the back several times.

He died just days before his 20th birthday.

“That day when I received the news, the worst news you can receive as a mother, as a human being, I pray and I tell God, ‘I’m here. I’m here,’” Lara said, beginning to cry. “‘The only thing I ask is for the strength and the mercy because I know these coming days are going to be the hardest days I will ever have.’ And he did. He did.”

“Chrys didn’t see it coming. There was no altercation,” said his sister, Jennifer Ramirez. The family learned this from police, who saw the shooting on security camera footage in the area. “They weren’t after him. They saw their opportunity.”

Lara agreed.

“He was not doing nothing bad, nothing wrong,” said the mother of four. “So it’s hard to accept because now the Fourth of July, how is it going to be for me?”

Carvajal had a bright future ahead of him. He joined the National Guard for the opportunities it offered as he pursued his dream of becoming a Chicago police officer.

He was also proud to be an American citizen with Honduran parents.

“He said he was so proud to serve this country,” Lara said.

Lara’s family is tight-knit and faith-filled, attending Mass together regularly. Carvajal had a strong faith that he was not afraid to share, she said.

“He was that kind of person that was very spiritual. As his mom we shared a lot. He had the faith. He enjoyed it and he loved it,” Lara said.

Growing up, Carvajal regularly served at Mass. Then he became a lector in both Spanish and English. When he was home, he would attend Sunday Mass with his mother.

In fact, the last photo Lara took with her son is of the two of them posing in front of St. Mark Church after Mass.

Basic training for the National Guard was the first time Carvajal was away from the family for an extended period of time. He wasn’t able to take a Bible, Lara recalled, but during his first week in basic training he asked his mother to have a Mass said for him. She did, and also mailed him a small Bible.

“He would go and view the Mass. The other kids couldn’t believe that he would go as a young man. He said he had the faith,” his mother recalled. “He would always say, ‘Mom, thank you, because a lot of kids, they don’t know nothing about God. They don’t grow in any faith, Mom.’”

Despite being the third of four siblings, Carvajal was a role model for the rest of them, Ramirez said. He was the glue that kept the family together.

“I think a lot of people would say that he was a heartfelt person. He showed his emotions a lot and acted based on his emotions,” Ramirez said. “I know our family was very important to him, especially my mom. He had a very good connection with her.”

He had big goals and was working to accomplish them, she said.

“He wanted to be a millionaire by the age of 21,” Ramirez said. “He wanted to buy a house. He wanted to do everything that any young kid fresh out of high school would like to do. And he was on the right path.”

“He was a good young man with a good heart,” Lara said, becoming emotional. “Everywhere he would go, he touched hearts. As a mother, it was an honor for me that he enjoyed the Word of God.”

Carvajal’s case is still open. The family said detectives brought evidence and an eyewitness to the Cook County State’s Attorney, who said there wasn’t enough to prosecute.

So the family is seeking justice by attending peace walks and sharing their story. They are also reaching out to friends and family, urging them to contact the State’s Attorney’s office and other elected officials to help bring his killer to justice.

“In our situation, we could easily be standing outside the State’s Attorney’s office protesting day and night, causing chaos,” Ramirez said. “You can’t get peace with chaos. You want to bring peace with peace into the world.”

One of those walks was on Aug. 28 with parishioners from St. John Bosco, St. James the Apostle and Sts. Genevieve and Stanislaus Bishop & Martyr, who processed through the Belmont Cragin neighborhood, stopping to pray at locations where people were killed by gun violence. At one stop they remembered Carvajal.

As the family struggles with all the emotions of the situation, they are leaning on their faith in God.

Ramirez said following the walk on Aug. 28, Father Sergio Riva, pastor of Sts. Genevieve and Stanislaus Bishop & Martyr, offered some comforting words for when she wants to question God for letting her brother be killed.

“He said during these moments is when you see God the most, that he brings all this strength in us, this unity. And he keeps us going even though it’s something really hard to go through,” she said. “He’s not just here in the good times. He’s more present when you are going through a hard time.”

“I’m in the fire now,” Lara said. “The only thing I can say to anybody is I rely on my faith in God. It’s hard. Every day when I go to bed, it’s hard. When I wake up, it’s hard. The only thing I do is pray.”

As humans there is no answer for what happened to her son, she said.

“I have the faith and I thank God for everything. I know where is my Chrys,” she said, touching her heart. “That is my hope that one day we are going to meet again.”


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