CHICAGO (AP) — A Chicago public school teacher was fatally shot at her second job at a real estate office in what police say was an exchange of gunfire between two groups of alleged gang members.
Betty Howard taught at Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep, and after work with special needs students she spent time at a realty company in Chatham, a middle-class neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. Family members say she was in the office when she was shot Thursday.
Police said the gunfire appeared to stem from a gang conflict. Family members said a bullet came through a wall and struck her in the head.
Howard, 58, would travel to homes to teach disabled students, doing whatever it took to help some of the city's most challenged youth, Brooks Principal D'Andre Weaver said.
Students on Friday wrote "thank you" letters to Howard. Students from her home room released green and pink balloons, the colors of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the teacher's sorority.
Sophomore Isaac Simmons said he didn't know Howard, but his friends who were in her class could feel the concern she had for them.
"I know a couple of kids that actually went to her for help, and it seemed like she was always trying to help out and do the best for kids," he told WMAQ-TV. "It's so much violence, you really don't know what to do. I mean, I've just got to hope and pray that something like that doesn't happen to me."
Community activist Andrew Holmes says some members of the community are offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Howard's killer.
"I'm talking directly to the people they were shooting at," Holmes said. "You know who was shooting at you. Whether you were shot today, you know who was shooting at you. What you need to do is pick up that phone (and call police)."
Chicago's battle with violent crime has been closely watched. In 2012, the city led the U.S. in homicides with more than 500. It ended 2013 with 415 homicides — the lowest total in nearly half a century but still far more than any other U.S city, including much larger Los Angeles and New York.