- Associated Press - Sunday, June 22, 2014

JOLIET, Ill. (AP) - Vanessa Anderson-Eskridge is sick of the violence.

Her nephew, Dameon D. Anderson, was killed May 4 by a 20-year-old man who allegedly shot him because Anderson was threatening him with a gun.

A stray bullet from a nearby gang fight killed her brother, Jimmy Anderson, nearly 25 years ago.

Anderson-Eskridge said it took years for her to get over her brother’s death. Her nephew’s death has brought back painful memories.

“I thought, ‘This is happening to me again.’ Violence robs someone,” she said.

Jimmy Anderson, 28, was watching TV June 9, 1991, when a bullet came through the window of his third-floor apartment in the 300 block of North Broadway and struck him in the head. Anderson survived for a week in the hospital before he died.

James Caruth, who was fighting with rival gang members on the street outside, is serving a 50-year prison sentence for Anderson’s murder.

“It was devastating,” Anderson-Eskridge recalled. “He had no gang involvement. He’d just gotten hired as a roofer. I was a single parent and when he wasn’t working he helped me with my sons.”

Anderson-Eskridge, who works with children with behavioral disorders, believes the time her late brother spent with her sons was invaluable and they’d have been better off if that male presence hadn’t been taken away so suddenly.

“They’ve been in some minor trouble. I’ve had to stay on them,” she admitted. “Boys need a father. If they don’t have someone there for them, they go to the streets.”

Anderson-Eskridge believes her nephew’s fate may have been different if his father had been more involved while he was growing up.

Dameon Anderson, 27, served prison time for aggravated battery and unauthorized possession of a firearm by a felon. Early on the morning of May 4, Anderson, his younger brother and a group of friends went to a party in the 100 block of Mississippi Avenue.

Police Lt. Brian Dupuis said a 17-year-old boy fired several shots into the air and the group was told to leave by Donald Woods, 20. Woods, like Anderson, has a criminal history, but Dupuis said their dispute was not gang-related.

“As they were leaving in the alley, witnesses said, Anderson took the gun from the 17-year-old, which he did not know was now empty and pointed it toward Woods,” Dupuis said. “Woods had a gun of his own and fired one round that struck Anderson.”

An investigation by Joliet police and the Will County State’s Attorney’s office found Woods was justified in shooting Anderson and was only charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon. Woods also faces unrelated charges of aggravated domestic battery and is on parole for a 2012 robbery conviction.

The 17-year-old boy faces several weapons charges, according to reports.

While Anderson had a criminal record, his aunt felt he was more involved with his own three children than his father was.

“He had his little girl with him for Easter the last time I saw him. He was in such high spirits,” she said. Dameon Anderson worked at a local warehouse and frequently took his children to the park, she said.

“There’s no diminishing the importance of fathers to daughters. But in my own work, I’ve seen (that) boys need their dad,” Anderson-Eskridge said. “Without a father to provide, the boys will run to the street.”

“That’s the root cause of this violence. I know the pain I’ve endured and I’m sick of it. I just want to remind fathers how important it is,” she said.

Anderson-Eskridge said Anderson’s father did not attend his funeral.

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Source: The (Joliet) Herald-News, bit.ly/1onXVbE

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