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Black women share their frightening experiences being targets of crime in Chicago

Black women share their frightening experiences being targets of crime in Chicago
Black women share their frightening experiences being targets of crime in Chicago 07:25

CHICAGO (CBS) – Everyone wants to feel safe in their own home, in their own community, as they go about their daily lives.

For Black women in Chicago every day begins with the fear of becoming another tragic statistic. "I don't know if today's the day they want to carjack me. I don't know if today's the day they want to rob me," one woman said.

The CBS 2 Investigators analyzed more than two decades of police crime data connecting each report to a person, to a location, to a date and time and discovered a startling fact hiding in plain sight. Black women are disproportionately targeted when it comes to crime. And they have been for decades.

Looking at 2022, of the 269,423 crimes reported in Chicago, 67,094 happened to Black women. Everything from theft to murder. That means Black women account for 25% of crime victims while they make up just 16% of the city's population.

Some brave Black women wanted to share their stories of going about their daily lives and suddenly being attacked by strangers. They shared their fears and hopes to help shine a light on a problem they say the city has largely ignored for years.

Sierra Jamison

One of those 67,094 Black women who came face to face with crime in Chicago in 2022 is Sierra Jamison, a 29-year-old single mother of a 6-year-old son with autism.

In August 2023, Sierra Jamison, 29, discusses surviving attempted carjacking at south side gas station Tamott Wolverton/CBS News Chicago

In August 2023, the aspiring nurse recounted her heroic story of fighting off a man who tried to steal her 2018 Jeep Wrangler.

According to police reports, several months before she spoke with CBS 2, in December, she had stopped to fill up her tank with gas when a stranger attacked her. The stranger, a man, carried a kitchen knife.

"He just said, 'Bitch, give me your keys,'" Jamison recalled. "What made me say no? Because I observed him. I can tell that he wasn't ready because he was flinching. He was nervous."

Two other women at the gas station that day had her back. One had a bat in the trunk of her car.

"I said give me your bat, give me your bat," Jamison said.

Once Jamison was armed with the bat, the man ran away. He was later caught by police, arrested and convicted of attempted aggravated vehicular hijacking. He is now serving a four-year sentence in an Illinois state prison.

Jamison said she later learned that her attacker had spent hours at the gas station looking for what he thought was the perfect victim. "It was a few men here, and they said the young man had been hanging out here the whole day. I'm a young Black woman. He wanted to target me. I know he didn't target the men that came up."

Jamison, with the help of the other women, fought off her attacker that December day. "I guess he was feeling like I was gonna be vulnerable, be like get the key. But he got the wrong female."

According to data received through a public records request, Jamison was one of 66 Black women robbed or carjacked by strangers at gas stations in Chicago in 2022.

"I'm grateful I went home to my son that day. I thank God every day that I'm here because it could have gone a different way."

In September 2023, one month after she bravely shared her survival story, Jamison encountered another attacker. This time it was someone she knew. This time she did not make it back to her son. She was murdered in her garage, her body found next to her Jeep Wrangler.

Lura Irvine/Kenya Merrills, Mother/Daughter

In August 2022, Lura Irvine and her daughter Kenya Merrills were riding the CTA Red Line train home after spending a day downtown enrolling in college and enjoying lunch.

On the train during the afternoon rush hour, they encountered a mob of robbers. When they got off at the 95th street station, that mob attacked them.

August 2022, Mother, Daughter discuss being attacked by mob of robbers at 95th street Red Line station CBS News Chicago

"He punched me in my face, full on fist," said Merrills immediately after the attack.

"I already knew I was gonna die. I just said 'Let me just shield my daughter so she won't die,'" said Irvine.

The attack left an emotional scar on Merrills. "I have to take this train and honestly, I don't feel comfortable getting back on that train. I don't feel safe."

Merrills and Irvine were two of the 769 Black women who faced assaults, batteries, robberies and other crimes just trying to get to school, work, home on CTA buses, trains, platforms, and parking lots throughout 2022.

Niya Williams

Niya Williams only wanted a late-night bite to eat from a 24-hour Bronzeville restaurant. She was grabbing food from Maggie Gyros when she said three people started yelling at her inside.

August 2023, Niya Williams discusses being attacked and shot, by a stranger in Bronzeville Tim Viste/CBS News Chicago

"I told them I'm God's child and we shouldn't be out here hating one another. Within two minutes of me saying that I was fighting for my life," said a tearful Williams.

She said the exchange of words made her feel uncomfortable and frightened.

"I asked the guys inside, could they hurry up with my food? Because I felt I was going to be attacked."

According to the police report, two of the strangers followed Williams and her cousin to their car parked on the street in front of the restaurant. One of the strangers, a man, pointed a gun at Williams through the passenger window and pulled the trigger.

"He shot. Boom, boom, boom. That was it."

The bullets hit Williams in the face.

"It was the biggest burn I ever felt. My teeth were blown out. I have no teeth on this side. I was spitting out bullets and teeth at the same time."

The pictures from her hospital bed graphically illustrate the physical pain she endured.

Niya Williams' injuries from shooting Niya Williams

"I had stitches in my face. My head had blown up because it had hit a vessel. I had to go for emergency surgery," she said.

Uncertainty filled the hospital in the hours ahead while she struggled to survive. "It was horrible. I was fighting for my life on a machine."

Now, as she physically heals, the emotional scars remain.

"I'm a lot traumatized now, because when night falls, it gets scary just out here in the world. Getting out to your car. Walking your dog," she said.

Williams was shot in April of 2023.

"I was an innocent person going to get something to eat and I was preyed on. And this is happening all the time."

In 2022 1,130 Black women were attacked and injured on Chicago streets by strangers.

"I felt targeted that night," Williams said, "I just want to tell the attacker, he changed my life. But, God spared mine. I am a survivor."

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