Lee McCullum Jr. was poised to become a success story. The former Chicago gang member managed to give up his guns, finished high school — where he was named prom king — and was even headed to college and become an example to other South Side teens of how a better life is possible.
Tragically, on Thursday morning, that dream died when McCullum Jr. was shot and killed in his neighborhood. The 22-year-old, whose incredible transformation was chronicled in the 2014 CNN doumentary Chicagoland, was shot in the back of the head, and his murderer is still at large.
To add even more heartache to this already devastating turn of events, McCullum's girlfriend was killed just one month ago, as she was stepping out of her car.
"He was a great kid," McCullum's former principal Liz Dozier tells WGN. "I think people (watching the documentary) got to see what a great person he was and the complexity of what he faced and how he handled it with grace."
While it hasn't been confirmed that McCullum died of gang-related activity, all signs currently point to that conclusion. According to DNAinfo Chicago, McCullum was the son of a "former South Side gang member who lost a leg to gunfire and took a bullet in the head." Both his parents were in jail at one point, and in the documentary Chicagoland, he is seen moving out of the South Side to get away from the danger.
Ultimately, McCullum moved back, but despite being homeless for his entire senior year, managed to change his life. He was an honor student, named prom king and became a student leader.
"He wanted to go to college and play basketball, says Dozier. "He was a great person and I just can't believe he's dead. It's just unreal when you think about it. The streets have got yet another young male."
Our condolences go out to McCullum's family, friends, and all those who were inspired by his story.