British Columbia

B.C. man describes helplessness of grieving from afar after brother, cousin shot dead in Chicago

A B.C. man who found out that his brother and cousin were killed in his hometown of Chicago on Sunday says he feels helpless watching from afar as protests engulf the city and COVID-19 remains a risk.

COVID-19, George Floyd protests mean Dionte Jelks can't get back to his hometown to comfort his mother

Dionte Jelks, who lives in Langford, B.C., is mourning the loss of his brother and cousin, who were murdered in Chicago on the weekend. (CHEK News)

A B.C. man who found out that his brother and cousin were killed in his hometown of Chicago on Sunday says he feels helpless watching from afar as protests engulf the city and COVID-19 remains a risk.

Dionte Jelks, from Langford, B.C., says he is torn between helping his family in the U.S. cope with their grief and staying safe for the sake of his own children. 

"I want to go back and to help my family out, my mother. But again, do I put myself at risk? Do I go back and risk the chance of my kids growing up without a father, or do I risk the chance of going there, coming back, and spreading coronavirus here?" Jelks told host Kathryn Marlow on CBC's All Points West. 

Jelks grew up in the south side of Chicago with his brother Darius and his cousin Maurice, and remembered them as bubbly individuals.

He says they were driving to his mother's house when they were shot and killed at a traffic signal. 

"It is so unfortunate that they lost their lives to senseless violence," he said. "I thought we would grow old together and sit on a lake and laugh, just like we always do."

Protests slow search for answers

Jelks has few details on who might have killed his brother and cousin, and says it's even more difficult to get answers while the city is engulfed in protest. 

The protests in Chicago and other major cities across the U.S. are in response to the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, who was killed while in police custody. 

"The national guard is on the streets and [there is] looting. It's pretty difficult to navigate," he said. "What once was a 15-minute drive turns into an hour, two-hour drive trying to navigate the neighbourhoods to stay safe."

The added complication, of course, is the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to the border between the U.S. and Canada being closed to non-essential travel until at least June 21. 

Jelks says it is so hard not to be able to comfort his mother in person.

"She's broken up. She's into pieces. It's so hard for me to even talk to her, to comfort her. I don't have the words to say to her," he said.

"I consider myself a very strong person and at this moment, I feel weak to even call her."

Still, Jelks said he understood why there were mass protests across the city and country.

"When you take a knee to protest and someone tells you, 'no, that's not the right way to protest', you continue going through different ways to protest — and still, people won't listen," he said.

"The voices of the people have gone unheard for years."

With files from All Points West

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