New York Magazine


Ramaine Hill

THE SUN HAD JUST SET, and before heading home, Ramaine Hill kissed his girlfriend, Kaprice, and hugged their 2-year-old son, RJ. He hopped on his nephew’s BMX bike, which he rode standing up since it was too small for his five-foot-11 frame. He always listened to music, mostly Lil Wayne that summer of 2013, and so he put in his earbuds. This was when Ramaine felt most at peace. By himself, with his music. He began the three-block ride home.

A sleepy-eyed, open-faced 22-year-old, Ramaine had a quiet demeanor, a shyness. He felt uncomfortable around people he didn’t know well, which included just about everyone except for his family and Kaprice. One time, when his grandfather, whom he’d never met, visited, Ramaine disappeared upstairs, slipped onto the roof, and left the house through a back staircase. Anything to avoid having a conversation. To avoid having to explain himself. To avoid contact. Kaprice remembers that when they started hanging out together, in their early teens, she’d sit with Ramaine on a park bench because he didn’t want to come inside and talk with her mom. Ramaine was old-school, though. When, at 14, he decided he wanted to officially date Kaprice, he asked for permission. “I’m really feeling her,” he told Kaprice’s mom. “I want her to be my girlfriend.” She laughed and gave him the okay.

As Ramaine pedaled his bike up to the rowhouse where he lived with his aunt, brother, and sister, a van screeched to a stop in front of him. The side door slid open, and a man jumped out with a gun. He demanded that Ramaine get into the van, but Ramaine, strong and agile, threw down the bike and sprinted for his home 50 feet away. As he pounded on the front door, pleading to be let in, he turned to see the van pull a U-turn before taking off. He recognized the man who accosted him. He knew what he wanted. He knew they’d try again. Standing in his apartment’s vestibule, trying to catch his breath, shaking, he told his aunt Joyce, “They’re after me. They’re after me.” She didn’t know what or who he was talking about.

IN CHICAGO, more people are murdered annually than in any other city in the country—555 last year—and the vast majority of the cases go unsolved. Kill someone, and chances are one in four at best that you’ll get caught. Shoot someone and injure him or her, and there’s only a one-in-ten possibility that you’ ll get charged. The police usually blame those low numbers on a street culture that discourages cooperation with law enforcement—and there is no doubt that since Laquan McDonald was gunned down by officer Jason Van Dyke in 2014, and the crime covered up, more black and brown Chicagoans distrust the cops than ever. But Ramaine’s story points to another reason getting away

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