Chicago Gangs Murder Honor Student Featured in CNN Documentary ‘Chicagoland’

Chicago, IL

A young Chicago man who escaped from gangs, homelessness, and nearly flunking, up to making the honor roll, getting elected prom king, and being featured in the CNN documentary Chicagoland, could not escape his murder by gang members in Chicago this week, police report.

Lee McCullum, 22, was found shot in the head on Wednesday night in the 500 block of West 126th Street. He died from his wound that night.

By all accounts the young man was in the midst of straightening his life out having graduated high school with honors, cut his gang ties, and getting a job to provide for his daughter. His journey from troubled teen to increasingly stable adulthood was featured in the 2014 CNN documentary that chronicled the violence seen in the city.

Despite becoming a more upstanding member of society, tough, McCullum was still dogged by the gangs he struggled to leave in his past. After the TV series aired in 2014 he was shot in the leg in a drive by shooting as he was standing at a bus stop. And this year his girlfriend was shot as she was getting out of her car. She later died of her wounds.

“Sometimes I feel like I’m only born to lose. Every time you try to skip out and do something good,” the former Fenger High student said after he was shot in 2014. “The more you try to do right, the more wrong come up on you. It’s hard to manage around that.”

McCullum’s former teacher, who also appeared in the CNN series, was shocked by the murder of her former student. The teacher, Liz Dozier, tweeted a photo of the murdered man and called the incident “pure madness.”

“Chicagoland” series producer Yoav Attais was also saddened by the news of McCullum’s murder.

“Lee was a very bright guy with a ton of potential,” Attais said on Thursday.

We picked him for ‘Chicagoland’ because, more than anyone, he was the most on the brink. He could go in one direction or the other. We filmed him getting college acceptance letters and he was motivated to go to college and had every intention of going. We filmed his graduation. Whatever happened [in his life] pulled him back to the streets and after that the outlook was pretty bleak. Not to say we saw this coming, but there are not many alternatives for young black men in his position, which is terrible to say.

Just like in many other major cities, Chicago-area murders jumped from 416 in 2014 to 468 in 2015, amid continued Democratic political dominance of the sprawling city, and federal efforts to reduce prosecutions and penalties.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at