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Teens who killed dad in front of his kids don’t deserve our sympathy

Chicago police stand near where a 25-year-old man was shot in the 4600 block of South Troy Street in the Brighton Park neighborhood on June 8, 2017. (Abel Uribe / Chicago Tribune)

I didn’t know Isaac Reed. But I do know that he didn’t deserve to be killed — especially not in front of his children.

I don’t know the young men who shot him to death either. Witnesses say they were teenagers. But I do know that what they did was pure evil. It would not be fair to condemn them for life, but I feel no sympathy for them. Not right now.

They are not among the young people I often write about — the ones who I insist would do better if they had other life choices. The teens who walked up on Reed on Thursday afternoon and shot him in the head after he pleaded, "I’m with my kids," have some issues that society cannot fix. What they need is a conscience.

In the past, I have asked you to put yourself in the place of young people who are consumed by violence, to consider how social and economic forces beyond their control contributed to the people they’ve become. I have implored you to reach out whenever possible and offer encouragement to our youths, and to find in your heart a way to at least try to understand why they do the bad things they do.

But this time, I won’t. I cannot ask you do what I cannot do myself.

I’m not sure we have the power as regular citizens to help young people who have no regard for human life — not the life of a father, not the lives of two young children and probably not even for their own lives.

There’s something about killing a 25-year-old father in front of his children that goes beyond the typical gang shootings we are used to in Chicago.

Like a handful of others we’ve seen in the past, this shooting seemed darker and more sinister. It’s the kind of thing that elicits a guttural reaction that both enrages us and renders us helpless at the same time. Shootings like this are more eye-opening than the others — because they show us how deep into violence some of our young people have sunk.

Reed was standing on a street near a van, talking through the window to his girlfriend when he was shot. His 2-year-old son and his 5-month-old daughter were inside the vehicle. The family had been talking about going to the park, relatives said.

Then these two teenagers walked up, according to police. One of them asked Reed what he was "about," meaning what gang he belonged to.

Reed answered, "I’m with my kids."

One teen turned to the other and said, "Shoot that n—–, shoot that n—–."

Reed repeated, "I’m with my kids." His girlfriend said it too. "He’s with his kids."

But the teenagers didn’t care. The younger of the two raised a pistol and shot Reed in the forehead.

Reed fell to the ground and the teenage gunman stood over him and fired two more times, all this as two children watched.

It’s hard to imagine how anyone could be so heartless.

I’m not going to ponder whether having a job would have made these teenagers more sensitive. I’m not going to blame poverty or a weak school system or the lack of opportunities for depriving them of a conscience.

This time, I will do what so many others do whenever there is a shooting in Chicago. I’m going to wonder about their parenting, about the discipline, or the lack of it, they received at home. I am going to assume that these young men are just bad people.

I don’t care what events led to the shooting. It doesn’t matter why they did it.

This time, I will only think of Reed’s two children.

The 5-month-old is lucky. She’s too young to comprehend what happened. But Reed’s 2-year-old certainly did. The boy cried hysterically for nearly an hour, his relatives said.

Chances are the images of his father lying on the ground and his mother screaming, "Wake up, wake up" will be with him for a long time. He deserves a childhood much better than that.

Twitter @dahleeng