The day he arrived in Chicago to begin a graduate program at Northwestern University, a 25-year-old cancer survivor raised in Southern California became the innocent victim of deadly street violence, caught in what authorities described as crossfire from a gunfight.
"He wanted to make a difference," sobbed Tonya Colombo, the mother of Shane Colombo. "Shane would have contributed so much."
Her son had received a full scholarship from Northwestern University and was due to begin work on his Ph.D in Psychology. Colombo was at a bus stop in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood Sunday evening when gunfire erupted, and he was struck in the abdomen. Security camera images released by police showed several men running from the scene. Colombo was transported to a hospital, but he did not survive.
What motivated the shooting was not clear, but authorities said it did not involve Colombo. He was an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire.
Colombo was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma when he was 15, his mother said. He recovered and went on to earn his bachelor's degree at San Francisco State, and then was accepted in a graduate program at New York's Columbia University.
"He was a very smart kid, very compassionate, really empathic," Prof. Kevin Ochsner told the Chicago Tribune.
Ochsner recalled Colombo's work as a manger in a neuro science lab, and his interest in the effects of schizophrenia on teens and added, "I really felt like he was going to have a brilliant career in clinical psychology."
Colombo had recently become engaged to Vincent Perez.
"He was amazing," Perez said. "And he was taken from me."
Both grew up in Orange County, but had not met until six years ago, when both were at San Francisco State. They maintained a long distance relationship while Colombo was in New York, but planned to share a condominium they purchased in Chicago, Perez said.
Before the transition to Chicago, Colombo visited his mother in Menifee and an aunt in San Clemente. After flying into Chicago Sunday, Colombo was too excited to stay inside, Perez said, and wanted to explore his new neighborhood.
Perez, still in California, recounted becoming worried after Colombo did not respond to text messages. He checked the phone locator and discovered Colombo was in a hospital, and frantically tried to get information.
"They told me he had just passed when I called, so I didn't get to say goodbye to him," said Perez, choking back tears.
The had discussed crime issues in Chicago, but concluded it was where Colombo should be to pursue his dreams. Rogers Park, with its multi-cultural community and LGBTQ inclusiveness, appealed to them, Perez said.
In his grief, Perez said he sees himself as an advocate for Colombo, and for equity, equality and resources for those disadvantaged or beset by discrimination.
While still a teen, Colombo worked with others afflicted with cancer. Speaking Tuesday outside the medical examiner's office in Chicago, Colombo's mother read a letter from one of them.
"Shane was one of the most compassionate individuals I have ever met. He was only about 17 and here he was, giving me hope," wrote the woman identified as Kim.
"This amazing man has done so much, with and in his life, in such a short time. He loved and was loved by so many," said his mother.
"You would have been a better person for knowing him," said aunt Tracy Nishimuta.
A relative has launched a GoFundMe page, Bringing Shane Home, to raise expenses for his return to California for burial.
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