sophomore girl at Tilden elaborated the headline of the story by observing that “It’s bad enough they’re [the gangs] taking violence into the neighborhoods, but when they’re taking it into the schools, it’s bad.” She emphasized that schools are different kinds of places: “They’re just here to learn. They’re not here to be dying.”
The third day, Sunday, brought another page one story focused on the apparent randomness of the deadly victimization, saying “Student Was in the Wrong Place at Wrong Time” (November 22, 1992). Joseph White again was identified as the charged assailant who was in jail and had been denied bond in court on Saturday. The story then focused on Delondyn Lawson and his family. His mother described Delondyn as a child who cried easily and who recently had been attending funerals for boys he knew at a rate of one or two a month. “His friends are constantly dying around him,” his mother reported, “They’re getting shot on the corners. Every month somebody he knew in his age group was dying.” Delondyn’s former school principal called it an American tragedy.
The news story reported that while he was walking between classes “a bullet tore through Delondyn’s back and through his heart,” killing him almost instantly. Delondyn had been staying with his aunt and then his father until his mother had retaken custody of him in the preceding weeks. She was trying to help Delondyn keep out of trouble and get his grades up, in part by picking him up after classes each day and then tutoring him for two hours of schoolwork. Other members of the family said that he wasn’t in a gang but his friends were. “The guys who are in the gang grew up with him,” a relative explained. “It’s not like he don’t know them. He’s got to go through them. These are kids that he’s seen all his life.”
The conclusion of the initial news coverage of the Tilden High shooting came in a page seven story the following Tuesday (November 24, 1992). (For a summary of the media coverage regarding this case, see Box 6-1.) The family of Joseph White had retained Chicago attorney Robert Habib to represent their son, and he appeared in Cook County Circuit Court on Monday seeking to bar the news media from further reporting of the boy’s name, because he was a juvenile. Yet White had already been charged as an adult, and raising this issue simply resulted in his name appearing again in the same sentence as the report of the judge’s refusal to suppress his identity, followed by a repetition of the report of the Saturday refusal of the appeal for his release on bond. Habib noted that the state’s attorney asserted in the bond hearing that “White just walked in … started shooting.” As a result, “you had that image right off the bat, that Joseph White had made an unprovoked attack in the school, literally just walked in and started firing.”