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Brandon McGhee, 23, was a creative go-getter still figuring out what he wanted to do with his life. Instead, he became another victim of the city’s violence.

Brandon McGhee, right, with his aunt Laurie Lane at his high school graduation.

Brandon McGhee, right, with his aunt Laurie Lane at his high school graduation. (Laurie Lane)

It was the first day of summer, and Brandon McGhee surprised his mom with a Saturday visit.

McGhee told her he wanted to start a career in radio — another surprise — but LaDonna Lane thought he had the right voice. Lane told her son she was thinking about a change of her own, maybe a move to Texas in a year or so.

For a few hours, the mother and son talked about the possibility of something new.

“You should move with me,” Lane said, as McGhee laid back on her bed. “Why don’t we go for a couple of years and just see?”

McGhee, 23, said he was thinking about moving too. He even had the same thought about Texas.

But, Lane said he wasn’t sure, telling her: ‘I don’t know, Mommy, I really have to think about it. You should go, because you deserve it. You can go for a couple of years. You can see how you like it, and if you don’t like it, you just come back here.’”

“That’s going to stay in my head all the time,” Lane said.

A few hours later, shortly before 7 p.m. on June 20, McGhee and a friend were shot in Logan Square near the Western Blue Line. McGhee became one of 14 people killed in shootings during a weekend stretch in which at least 106 people were shot in Chicago, according to authorities and Tribune data. Twelve of those shot were younger than 18, and five children died. That three-day period marked one of the most violent weekends Chicago has seen in recent years.

“He was always there,” Lane said. “I’m going to miss him. I’m going to miss him a lot.”

McGhee was creative and laid-back, a go-getter with glimpses of silliness. He dabbled in a clothing line, produced music, held tight to a notebook filled with drawings.

One day, McGhee invited his mom over for dinner at his place and surprised her with empanadas, a favorite, and she and his aunt wondered if he might become a chef after a string of restaurant-style meals. He had plans to come over and cook for them near the Fourth.

Brandon McGhee and his mother, LaDonna Lane.

Brandon McGhee and his mother, LaDonna Lane. (LaDonna Lane)

McGhee was all about basketball as a kid, his mother said, and Lane collected videos and pictures from his Lake View High School games. “You can go to the NBA, I know you can,” she told him.

Laurie Lane, who tried to make her nephew’s basketball and football games whenever she could, said McGhee was like a son to her.

“That’s how close we were,” she said. “When he was born, they had him in the nursery with the other babies, but they didn’t have his name on his little bed. And when I walked in there, with the glass, something drew me to him. I knew it was him.

“He was a sweetheart by nature,” his aunt said. “He just brought joy into people’s lives.”

After his senior year, McGhee moved on from basketball, but his mother watched as he started to build his life.

McGhee worked at WhirlyBall before the pandemic, and the “entire organization was devastated to hear the news,” the company said in a statement.

“Since 2016, Brandon has been part of our WhirlyBall family and to say he will be deeply missed is an understatement,” the company said. “Brandon was well respected, highly regarded and truly woven into the fabric of our culture.”

McGhee was always there when someone needed him, his mother said. He doted on his 4-year-old cousin and was the godfather of his best friend’s child, whom he adored. Another friend told Lane she once had to go to work and had no one to watch her child. She called McGhee to vent and ended up with a babysitter.

McGhee moved out a few years ago, his mother said, but he always called to check in. Since he lived close to Steppenwolf Theatre, where Lane works in human resources, she would sometimes visit after work.

Always, she said, “he was a great son.”

‘Have you heard from Brandon?'

When McGhee left his mom’s South Side home that Saturday, he headed north to his place. Lane knows because she texted to make sure he was safe.

“And he said, ‘Yes, I’m at home,’” Lane said. “And I said, ‘Are you sure you’re at home?’

McGhee sent a selfie to prove he was home.

“That was the last time I heard from him,” Lane said.

Cook County prosecutors laid out McGhee’s final moments in court last month.

Brandon McGhee before his senior prom.

Brandon McGhee before his senior prom. (Laurie Lane)

He was on his way to Puerto Rican Parade festivities in Humboldt Park shortly before 7 p.m., when three men, strangers to McGhee and a 16-year-old friend, crossed the street near the Western Blue Line, prosecutors said. They yelled: “What you be about?”

McGhee and his friend didn’t respond. They tried to walk away after a man in the group threw a punch at the teen and then McGhee.

Another man in the group reached into his waistband for a gun. McGhee and his friend turned and ran.

A couple was driving on Western after dropping off their granddaughter when their front windshield shattered, a bullet narrowly missing the man inside.

As the gunman fired multiple rounds, the teen was struck in his right arm and McGhee in his neck. The friends’ backs were turned.

Laurie Lane was the first to get the call. She ran downstairs. “Donna,” she said, crying, “have you heard from Brandon?”

Lane called her son’s phone. It rang and rang. She hung up. She called again. It kept ringing.

Finally a call came for Lane from McGhee’s best friend.

“Mama, Brandon is dead.”

‘Innocent lives are being taken'

Lane traveled from Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center — where she had to fight to be let in because of the pandemic — and then to the Blue Line and her son’s home.

In the coming days, she also joined the many other people identifying family members. “Everybody’s crying, families coming in,” Lane said. “We shouldn’t have to go through that.”

One person has been charged in the case, but he is not believed to be the shooter. Lane and her sister are still seeking justice.

Brandon McGhee plays basketball for Lake View High School.

Brandon McGhee plays basketball for Lake View High School. (Laurie Lane)

“Innocent lives are being taken out of this world,” Lane said. “They need to take the guns off the street. They need to get (gangs) off the street. They need to —” she trailed off.

“I don’t know what to do.”

As Lane reached out to friends and family on Saturday night, she called her boss at Steppenwolf. A groundswell of support followed.

Co-workers created a GoFundMe to cover funeral costs that to date has raised nearly $35,000. Comforting messages poured in, and the company started to send meals to Lane and her family.

“It’s overwhelming, you know,” Lane said. “The theater world, I love them, I do. And I’m just trying to figure out how I’m going to say thank you.”

On Sunday afternoon, the sisters joined with friends and family, even a teacher from grammar school, to release blue and white balloons. A few attached notes to send to McGhee.

McGhee’s funeral is planned for July 3 in Country Club Hills.

Lane said she is working up the strength to write her son’s obituary.

“He’s still a young man, trying to decide what he wants to do in life. And that’s taken away from him. He didn’t deserve it, he didn’t deserve it.”

She will miss his smile, she said. His sometimes weird way of dressing. His hair — “He had so much hair.” His willingness to help. Surprise visits.

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