Wortham never made it. He was shot to death Wednesday night in front of his parents' home after four men tried to steal his new motorcycle, police said.
But as neighbors continued to reel over Wortham's death, they came out to Nat King Cole Park on Sunday toting coolers of soda pop and sharing memories to show support for the officer's family and to send a message to those responsible for the rash of crime in the neighborhood.
"If we're in the park, the bad guys stay out," Ald. Freddrenna Lyle (6th Ward) said.
Chicago police officer Rich Bankus watches the area where community members including motorcycle groups gathered at Cole Park in the Chatham neighborhood Sunday to pay tribute to slain Chicago Police Officer Thomas Wortham IV. (Tribune / Lane Christiansen)
Wortham, who worked in the Englewood Police District , had become increasingly concerned with making the park, which is across the street from his parents' home, a safer place after two recent shootings shut down the basketball court.
Wortham and others planned to hold a fellowship meeting there on the first 80-degree day to stake their claim on the neighborhood.
One of Chicago's best-known black middle-class neighborhoods, many long-time Chatham residents have grown concerned over the increasing crime they attribute to Chicago Housing Authority residents moving to the area. But according to the authority, 118 families have used vouchers to relocate from public housing to Chatham. That is less than 1 percent of the neighborhood's households.
Lewis Jordan, the CHA's chief executive officer, said complaints that former public housing residents are responsible for an increase in crime in Chatham are unsupported by the facts.
Kassandra Scott-Ward, 59, was 8 years old when her family moved into their Chatham home. Back then, children knew where their teachers lived, neighbors raised chickens or horses and grew fruit trees in their yards.
Now, "these people have moved into a community without having a sense of community," Scott-Ward said.
Jordan said the distribution of former residents of CHA high rises has not been concentrated in any particular area, but throughout the city.
Though Wortham, who had just returned from a second tour of duty in Iraq as a first lieutenant in the Army National Guard, was absent from Sunday's fellowship meeting, the vision he had for it was honored, his friends and supporters said.
On Sunday, supporters included Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis, who looked on as Little League players filled the the baseball diamond. The Rev. Jesse Jackson arrived and shook hands, consoled Wortham's parents and expressed many neighbors' concerns.
"This is a state of emergency," Jackson said. "There needs to be a sense of urgency, not just a well-covered funeral."