Tio Hardiman, president of Violence Interrupters, wants officials to distribute 100,000 flyers to educate the public about the risks of road rage and shootings. Nationally, road rage violence doubled between 2019 and 2021.
“This is totally unacceptable at the highest level,” said Tio Hardiman, president of Violence Interrupters. “We’re supposed to protect children.”
Hardiman and supporters met at the corner of Marquette Road and Kenneth Avenue, where 3-year-old Mateo Zastro was shot and killed Friday while riding in his mother’s SUV.
Hardiman wants officials to distribute 100,000 flyers to educate the public about the risk of road rage and shootings.
The message: “Stop. Wait a minute. It’s not worth killing someone over a minor traffic dispute,” Hardiman said.
For years, Hardiman’s organization has mediated gang conflicts. But preventing road rage shootings is different; the shootings happen among strangers at random.
“It’s not easy. But people need to think before they act. There’s babies out here,” Hardiman said.
Mateo was killed in the back seat of his mother’s vehicle in what police said started as a “road rage incident” involving the mom and another driver on Cicero Avenue. The boy’s mother tried to get away from the other car, but it followed close behind.
A male passenger in the back seat of a red car — possibly a Dodge Charger or a Ford Mustang — started shooting, police said. The boy was shot in the head not far from his home and died eight hours later at Advocate Christ Medical Center. Police have reported no arrests.
Victim advocate Andrew Holmes spoke with Mateo’s family Sunday morning, but they declined to speak publicly. “They are still totally in shock,” Holmes said.
Violent road rage incidents have increased over the last three years. Illinois State Police said 35% of all expressway shootings this year through June were related to road rage, up from 12% last year.
“Getting ahead or getting even with another driver is not worth the risk of a deadly crash or violence,” Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly said in a news release this year warning drivers of the trend.
Nationally, road rage violence doubled between 2019 and 2021, according to Everytown Research & Policy, a gun violence advocacy group. Last year, an average of 44 people per month were shot and killed or wounded in road rage shootings — double the pre-pandemic average, according to the group.
Hardiman knows the risk of road rage personally. Three weeks ago, he said he was merging from Interstate 55 to DuSable Lake Shore Drive when he accidentally cut someone off, and the other driver waved a gun at him.
“I saw a guy holding a gun out the window. You’ve got to be careful now,” he said.
Chicago has seen several cases of violent road rage this year, including an off-duty Chicago police officer who was wounded last month in what authorities said was a traffic conflict, and in August, a man who was stabbed to death at a busy River North intersection. Also that month, a woman was shot in the head on the Stevenson Expressway when her boyfriend allegedly pointed a gun at an off-duty Chicago police officer who then opened fire.
“People are taking the roads too serious,” Hardiman said.
To address the violence, he wants to use the same public messaging that popularized masking, social distancing and vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We need to take the same steps to address road rage,” he said. “We need to have millions of flyers out there. We need to inundate motorists in Chicago with flyer after flyer after flyer. … We’ve got to work harder to reduce the levels of violent thinking here in Chicago.”