Moving from New York City to Chicago for school seemed like the natural choice for Mutahir Rauf, because with one family member there, the city already felt a little bit like home. He had been to Chicago many times before, sometimes even for Thanksgiving, to spend time with his older brother, Mokaram Rauf.
“We’re first generation immigrants,” said Mokaram, 27. “Our parents didn’t go to school [in the U.S.], so in many ways, he trusted the path that I carved out for myself.”
After graduating from Northwestern University in 2013, Mutahir began at Loyola as a post-baccalaureate student.
One year ago this week, on Dec. 5, Mutahir and his younger brother, both Loyola students at the time, were walking near the intersection of Albion and Lakewood avenues when two men allegedly approached them and attempted an armed robbery. A struggle ensued, and one of the brothers was shot twice.
Police say Mutahir, 23, died on the scene.
The investigation remains open and ongoing, according to Sgt. Robert Kane from the Chicago Police Department of News Affairs. However, to adhere to policy, he said he could not comment further on the status of the case.
Family and friends continue to grieve the loss of Mutahir’s life. Despite having no answers one year later, Mokaram, who was not with Mutahir on the night of the armed robbery, said his family has been happy with the police officers and detectives on the case.
“But as far as the end result … we don’t know, and that’s a very sad reality for us,” Mokaram said.
On the night of the murder, Loyola’s Campus Safety worked with the Chicago Police Department, helping to maintain the scene of the crime and search the area for the offenders, according to the Director of Campus Safety, Thomas Murray. As the liaison between the two police departments, Murray said his communication with CPD isn’t limited to Mutahir’s death, but even now — one year later — the subject is still regularly discussed between them.
“Chicago still has [the shooting] on their minds,” he said. “Even though it’s been a year, people are still asking questions.”
Although Campus Safety isn’t involved with the investigation, Murray said the department helps CPD as needed. For example, in the aftermath of the shooting Campus Safety forwarded any and all tips to CPD, where they could be followed up, he said.
Mokaram said it’s frustrating to hear of the rampant violence on Chicago’s streets.
“[In a] world class city like this, [even in] safe spaces near university campuses, no place is really safe,” he said.
He said well-lit streets and making more options available for late-night pick-up options might contribute to student safety, but that emphasis needs to be placed on addressing the root causes to crime such as poverty.
He also said that the addition of video cameras in areas prone to crime might help in investigations after the fact.
“Chicago is a pretty dangerous city, and the numbers point to that,” he said.
The most recent numbers show that there have been 39 shooting reports in the 24th Police District — which includes the Rogers Park community — this year to date, according to the CPD statistical report. This accounts for the reports filed between Jan. 1 and Nov. 22. That’s five more than the same time frame last year.
Seven of the reported shootings were fatal, according to the statistics. This is down one from the same time the year before.
Every life lost to some senseless act of violence should be thought of equally as much as the last, said one friend of Mutahir, adding that it is sometimes too easy to become desensitized to the violence we hear about almost every day.
“Every time I hear a gun-related story, I do think of Mutahir,” said Andrew Cho, a close friend and former roommate.
Although it’s been one year, it doesn’t surprise Murray that the case is still considered open and ongoing.
“One of the reasons there’s no statute of limitations on murder is that they’re difficult to solve sometimes,” he said.
Mutahir’s case is no exception.
Mokaram, who received the news while in Vancouver, Canada, expressed his appreciation for the way Chicago and the Loyola community supported his family both in the immediate aftermath and in the months that followed.
“I don’t think I have the words to express the amount of gratitude that I or my family feel toward Loyola,” he said, commenting on the ways in which Loyola has been involved with his family this year.
In the days, weeks and months that followed, Loyola offered continual support for the family and friends of Mutahir. Assistant Vice President for Student Life K.C. Mmeje became the point-of-contact person between the Rauf family and Loyola, regularly exchanging emails, placing phone calls and on several occasions, meeting in person.
“[The family] shared what their vision was in terms of creating spaces on campuses where Mutahir’s legacy could be remembered,” said Mmeje.
In addition to the memorial that has been at the site of his death for the last year, a memorial was installed in the Chapel Gardens and a plaque was placed in the weight room of Halas Recreation Center.
“He was an avid weight lifter,” Mokaram said. “He really dedicated part of his life to bodybuilding.”
Mmeje added that he was part of the “breakfast club” at Halas — a recognizable morning regular.
Loyola installed the most recent memorial — a tree and plaque — on Oct.17, the weekend of Mutahir’s birthday. It was a small gathering, Mmeje said. Only family and friends attended.
Loyola also helped the Rauf family financially, helping to cover lodging expenses when they had to spend time in the city and supporting the burial expenses. Respecting the family’s wishes, Loyola helped transport Mutahir’s body to Pakistan, where the three Rauf brothers were born before they moved to New York City.
“This wouldn’t be the first time that students who were enrolled and unfortunately passed,” Mmeje said. “Particularly if they’re international students, the institution has helped the family in repatriating the remains of the student.”
For the week of Mutahir’s anniversary memorial, the Rauf family plans to travel to Pakistan. In the Pakistani tradition for honoring the dead, they will spend the week with their extended family, distributing food and clothes to the needy to honor his death, Mokaram said.
“It’s going to be very healing for us,” he said.
In terms of Mokaram’s plans for the future, he said he’s taking it in stride.
“It’s hard to count on anything being set in stone,” he said. “I don’t know exactly where [my brother and I] will end up. For now, Chicago is home … but I have very mixed feelings about being in Chicago at the moment. There are a lot of good memories and wonderful times, but there’s also a lot of heartache here, too.”
Growing up, Mutahir was close with his two brothers. He and Mokaram both went to Northwestern where Mutahir graduated with degrees in psychology and science and human culture, according to Mokaram.
Mutahir started school studying economics, he said. But after he spent time in inner city communities in Philippines working in the health field, he changed his mind.
“He gravitated toward the idea that he wanted to work in service, to help people,” he said. “He saw medicine as a way to do that.”
He added that before he died, Mutahir was in the process of applying to medical school.
Friends and family said he was the kind of guy who had your back — he was sincere and devoted in all aspects of his life, and he was generous.
Cho and Mutahir met in the fall of 2009. They were first years at Northwestern, living on the same floor of their residence hall, he said.
Cho remembers his first impression of Mutahir — extremely nice, friendly and “definitely a New Yorker,” he said.
“One of our first conversations was about skinny jeans,” he said, laughing. They had a shared appreciation for the style of pants, he explained. It was a weird conversation to have with someone you’d just met, he said.
Mutahir was genuine, always telling the people in his life what they meant to him, he added.
“He reminded me all the time how much I meant to him, and that meant a lot to me,” Cho said. “He’s someone I miss every day.”
One of Mutahir’s most defining qualities was his incredible devotion to his family, according to Sana Ali, another friend of Mutahir.
“Forever grateful to his parents for the sacrifices they made for him and his brothers, Mutahir set out to be able to provide his parents with the utmost comfort and happiness in attempts to repay them for everything they had left behind in Pakistan,” Ali said in an email to The PHOENIX. “I had never met a greater mama’s boy.”
The Rauf brothers’ father currently lives in Pakistan, according to Mokaram, and his mother — for health reasons — lives in Chicago with him.
Family and friends seemed to agree on at least one thing — Mutahir committed himself to every aspect of his life.
“He committed himself to his relationships, to his career, to himself,” Mokaram said. “That’s the part we miss the most – his presence and the things he provided for us in our relationships.”