"They Shot Me in the Back": The Murder of Michael Kozel and the Saturation of Homicides in Black Communities in Chicago

Moral of the story: Don’t live around black people in Chicago

The citizens of Chicago are hard at work in the early stages of 2013 to replicate the crime rate of 2012 (where a reported 532 people were murdered), with 15 shot and three fatalities on New Year’s Day alone. 

By January 3rd, two more were dead. One of those dead, Michael Kozel, was a business owner in the 97 percent black community of Englewood. He was working at his auto parts shop, Independent Mufflers Inc., in the 5600 block of South Western Avenue and fell prey to two “as-of-yet-undescribed” felons. 
His last words to his son, whom he called as he bleed out, were “they shot me in the back.” [Family of slain auto shop owner: ‘We are lost’, Chicago Tribune, 1-3-13]:

After Michael Kozel was shot in a hold-up robbery at his Gage Park muffler shop Wednesday, he reached out to his son, just hours before his death. 

“‘They shot me in the back,'” Michael Kozel Jr., recalled his father’s last words to him. 

Kozel said he believes his dad reached out to him at about 5:30 p.m. even before he had an ambulance called. When the man’s only son got the call, he raced over from his job and found his father being treated by paramedics inside an ambulance.
Kozel, 57, was pronounced dead at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County at 9:09 p.m. 

Thursday, Kozel’s family remembered him as a compassionate man who turned his love for cars into a living that supported his tight-knit family. 

Two men entered Kozel’s business, Independent Mufflers Inc. in the 5600 block of South Western Avenue, about 5:20 p.m. and demanded money, police said. Kozel tried to flee but was shot in the back once as he tried to run away, authorities said.
Kozel’s family gathered at their South Side residence on the 2700 block of West Siepp Street in the Wrightwood neighborhood Thursday morning, tearful and visibly shaken by the loss of their patriarch. 

His daughter, Amber Kozel, 30, said her father owned the muffler shop for more than 20 years. He had owned other various businesses in the automotive industry throughout his career, she said. 

“He’s been in the business for 35 years — it all started with a love for cars,” Amber Kozel said. 

“He was in the business because he was a people person,” said Kozel’s wife, Antonia Kozel, 55. 

Kozel grew up off of 26th Street and lived his whole life in Chicago, family said.
Amber Kozel said her father was often mistaken for Santa Claus by children because of his “big belly and big beard.” 

“Kids would stare at him awestruck,” she said. “As in ‘What should I say to Santa?'” 

Antonia Kozel said her husband was a loving and giving family man. 

“He would give anyone the shirt off his back,” she said. “He didn’t deserve this.”
“Everything was taken care of for us as kids,” Amber Kozel said.  

Kozel’s family said he was hard-working and spent long hours at the muffler shop — usually 10-hour days, Monday through Saturday.

All we know about the suspects at this point is this:

Police said they are searching for two men, one of whom appeared to be in his 20s and was wearing a light-blue windbreaker with a white stripe. The man was also wearing a black stocking cap and black pants. 

Moral of the story II: Really… don’t live around black people in Chicago

 I placed a call to his muffler shop today, and heard the voicemail for his business — eerily, the voicemail played “you’ve reached Mike”… I’m not sure why, but hearing the voice of a man cut down by ‘random’ violence was not only haunting, but a reminder of just how delicate the line separating civilization from barbarism truly is. 

The New York Times reported that crime in Chicago, especially murder, tends to happen in areas devoid of white people (by all appearances, Mr. Kozel was a white man, though if he is Hispanic his murder isn’t any less touching) [In a Soaring Homicide Rate, a Divide in Chicago, 1-3-3]:

But the overall rise in killings here blurs another truth: the homicides, most of which the authorities described as gang-against-gang shootings, have not been spread evenly across this city. Instead, they have mostly taken place in neighborhoods west and south of Chicago’s gleaming downtown towers.

Already, 2013 began with three gun homicides on New Year’s Day, two of them on the South Side. Like other cities, Chicago has long been a segregated place, richer and whiter on the North Side, and the city’s troubling increase in killings has accentuated a longstanding divide.

“It’s two different Chicagos,” said the Rev. Corey B. Brooks Sr., the pastor of New Beginnings Church on the South Side, who had led the funeral service for Mr. Holman the day shots rang out, then found himself leading Mr. Miller’s funeral service a week later. The authorities here have described both shootings as gang related. “If something like that had happened at the big cathedral in downtown Chicago or up north at a predominantly white church, it would still be on the news right now, it would be such a major thing going on.”

More than 80 percent of the city’s homicides took place last year in only about half of Chicago’s 23 police districts, largely on the city’s South and West Sides. The police district that includes parts of the business district downtown reported no killings at all. And while at least one police district on the city’s northern edge saw a significant increase in the rate of killings, the total number there still was dwarfed by deaths in districts on the other sides of town, and particularly in certain neighborhoods.
Along the streets downtown and in neighborhoods on the North Side not far from Lake Michigan, some residents acknowledged that they had heard about a rise in the city’s homicide rate, but said it had not affected their own sense of safety. “This area is a bit of a Garden of Eden,” said Gwen Sylvain, as she walked dogs along a residential street not far from the Loop.

Others said they rarely had reason to go to the Chicago’s South or West Sides, only a few miles away, and some longtime residents said they had never once ventured to such neighborhoods. Police business on the North Side rarely seems to rise beyond an overly enthusiastic Cubs fan or a parking quibble, said Kyong Lee, who said that in the past he had, without consequence, forgotten to lock up his family’s shoe repair business.

The health of a community, positive or negative, is merely a reflection of the individual contributions of the citizens who live there in creating an environment where either commerce and social capital thrive or chaos and thuggery are the norm.

That same New York Times article would report:

A New York Times analysis of homicides and census data in Chicago compared areas near murders to those that were not. Residents living near homicides in the last 12 years were much more likely to be black, earn less money and lack a college degree.

So white people have gone to college to earn more money, which affords their family (or themselves) the opportunity to live in communities with few black people… what’s the big deal, New York Times?

One of the more violent communities in Chicago, Austin, is 85 percent black and only four percent white; conversely, Lincoln Park is 82 percent white and four percent black and one of the safest.

Do you begin to understand why white people in Chicago in the 20th century fought so hard to keep their neighborhoods segregated (not only for property value reasons, but for maintaining the safety of their families)?
 In the book “The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How it Changed America” by Nicholas Lesmann, we learn that our old friend Saul Alinksy got his start ruining the quality of neighborhoods, communities, and cities, by trying to integrate Chicago (p.97):

One of the few important white people in Chicago who were deeply interested in finding a way to integrate the black migrants into the economic and social life of the city was Saul Alinksy, the intellectual turned labor organizer turned neighborhood activist who ran the Industrial  Areas Foundation. Alinsky was very close to Cardinal Stritch, who was a Southerner by upbringing and understood as most Northerners then didn’t the extent to which racial prejudice could come to dominate the texture of a city’s life. The Archdiocese of Chicago was Alinsky’s main ally among the institutions that ran Chicago. It helped fund his operations, and it provided organizational support through a network of sympathetic parish priests. 

Until the late 1950s, Alinsky had operated only in working-class white neighborhoods. Now he began to think about using organizing techniques to create a racially integrated neighborhood in Chicago. His idea was that this could be done without having to undertake the fool’s errand of trying to persuade people to move to a racial utopia. So many neighborhoods on the South Side were in flux racially anyway that you could pick one in the process of transition and try to stabilize it by persuading everyone there to abide by a racial quota system. 

The key to making it work was to pick exactly the right neighborhood, one in which the whites could be reassured that they wouldn’t be surrounded by blacks for miles in every direction and that their black neighbors were stable people with families, houses, and good jobs. 

Today, white people pay a premium penny to ensure they don’t live anywhere near those miles and miles of black people; in Chicago, the closer one is to a saturation of black people, the closer one is to the killing fields of the Second City.

Courtesy of black people.

The Great Black Migration is the biggest misnomer ever; Manifest Destruction is the apt historical title for what happened to Northern cities that welcomed large numbers of black people from the south in the 20th century.

Michael Kozel, RIP. 



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