Columbia mourns slain theater freshman

Kevin Ambrose, a freshman theater major, died May 7 shortly after being gunned down in an apparent drive-by shooting, according to a Chicago Police Department representative. He was 19 years old.

An assailant in a white sedan shot Ambrose in the back near the 4700 block of South Prairie Avenue at 11:04 p.m., according to the CPD representative.

Ambrose was taken to a nearby hospital but did not survive his injury, the representative said. Police arrested Jerome Brown, 26, of the 7400 block of South Emerald Street, on the same night of the shooting after he was positively identified as the shooter, according to the CPD representative. He has been charged with first degree murder.

“The college is just so deeply saddened by this death,” said Mark Kelly, vice president of Student Affairs. “He was a loved member of our community and we are all just so deeply struck by this tragedy.”

In an email to the campus community, Kelly wrote that counseling services are available to students should they need it. According to the same email, Ambrose’s grandmother, Diane Ambrose-Owen, is a former longtime employee of Student Financial Services. During Manifest, there will be a moment of silence in Ambrose’s honor, he said.

Michael Dye, a freshman at Harold Washington College and friend of Ambrose, was present the night Ambrose was shot, he said. According to Dye, Ambrose was coming to meet him at the 47th Street Green Line station so Dye’s walk to his home would be safer.

Dye said when he got to the train station, he saw someone running and then heard gunshots. He said he tried to call Ambrose on his cellphone but didn’t know it was he who was shot until he found him in the alleyway where he collapsed.

“I am just so shocked and I can’t understand why or how this happened,” Dye said. “He put everyone before him, and if people were happy, then he was happy.”

Julie Arroyo, a Northeastern Illinois University student, worked with Ambrose at Target. She said she loved his humor and the way he could always make someone smile.

“No matter the vibe in the room, he could always cheer everybody up,” Arroyo said. “I don’t want Kevin to be remembered as just another number; he was just trying to make himself better.”

Columbia students and staff members who knew Ambrose were devastated by the news and are still trying to make sense of the

tragic event.

Kimberly Weatherly, director of African American Cultural Affairs in Multicultural Affairs, said Ambrose was an active member of the Black Student Union and the Peer Support Program, an initiative to retain

first-year students.

Weatherly said when she learned of Ambrose’s death, she was saddened and thought it was another life taken too soon.

“Kevin was a gentle soul and he was pleasant to be around,” Weatherly said. “He had a very optimistic outlook on life.”

Brian Shaw, chair of the Theatre Department, said the whole department was saddened by the news.

“He was very generous and had a lot of energy,” Shaw said. “The fact that he was shot going to walk a friend home knowing the danger of the neighborhood says a lot about who he was.” 

Francesca Chaney, a senior journalism major, was friends with Ambrose and said the death was especially tragic for her because she had completed a project on gun violence the day he died.

“The fact such a nice kid had died because of gun violence is horrid,” Chaney said. “I hate Chicago. It’s ridiculous how many kids are dying.”

Julie Young, an adjunct professor in the Theatre Department, said she had Ambrose in an Introduction to Design course during the fall semester. She said he was a pleasure to have in class.

“Kevin was such a sweet guy,” Young said. “He had a heart of gold and poured his heart into his work. It’s sad that he’s a victim of such senseless violence.” 

Larry Houston, a freshman arts, entertainment and media management major, met Ambrose at the beginning of the year. Houston said they were coworkers at Target.

Houston said one of his favorite memories of Ambrose happened the same day of his death. Ambrose had shown a “goofy” photo of himself sleeping upside down to Houston. The next day, Houston said he learned of Ambrose’s death when he saw it on Facebook.

“I had to scroll back through when I first saw it, and when I realized it was Kevin, I had tears in my eyes,” Houston said. “At the end, he was just a kid trying to achieve his dream.”