The Tragic Life and Death of Robert “Yummy” Sandifer

Robert Sandifer, also known as Yummy, was an 11-year-old boy from Chicago who became a symbol of the gang problem in America as well as the fault in the child services and juvenile justice system. He lived a violent life and suffered a violent death at the hands of his own fellow gang members. His story shocked the nation and raised many questions about the causes and consequences of youth violence.

A Childhood of Abuse and Neglect

Robert Sandifer was born on April 17, 1983, to a drug-addicted mother and an absent father. He was physically abused from the time he was an infant, suffering cigarette burns, bruises, and scratches. According to Wikipedia, he was already known to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) before he was three years old.

In 1987, he and his six siblings were removed from his mother’s home and sent to live with their grandmother in the Roseland neighborhood of Chicago. However, his grandmother’s home was not much better than his previous one. It was overcrowded with as many as 19 children on some occasions. By the age of eight, Robert had quit attending school and began to roam the streets stealing cars and breaking into houses.

A Life of Crime and Violence

By the age of 10, Robert had been arrested on charges of armed robbery. He had also committed arson, drug possession, and other crimes. He had a record of 23 felonies and five misdemeanors, but due to his young age, he never got more than a slap on the wrist. He soon joined a street gang called the Black Disciples, where he earned the nickname “Yummy” because of his love for cookies.

As a gang member, Robert was involved in shootings, drug dealing, and extortion. He was also a victim of violence himself, having been shot in the stomach and grazed by a bullet in the head. He had several scars on his body from knife wounds and beatings.

On August 28, 1994, Robert was ordered by his gang leaders to shoot at a group of rival gang members. He fired several shots from a 9mm semiautomatic pistol, but missed his intended targets and instead hit two innocent bystanders: 14-year-old Shavon Dean and 16-year-old Dantrell Davis. Shavon died from her wounds, while Dantrell survived.

A Death by Betrayal

After the shooting, Robert became a fugitive and a liability for his gang. The police were looking for him as a suspect in Shavon’s murder, and the gang feared that he could become an informant or attract too much attention to their activities. They decided to eliminate him.

On August 31, 1994, two older gang members, brothers Cragg and Derrick Hardaway, lured Robert into a car with the promise of taking him to a safe place. They drove him to a viaduct near the Chicago Skyway and ordered him to get out of the car. While kneeling, Robert was shot twice in the back of the head by the Hardaway brothers. His body was discovered by the police in the early morning of September 1.

A Legacy of Controversy and Awareness

Robert’s murder caused a national outrage and a media frenzy. His picture appeared on the cover of Time magazine in September 1994 with the caption “So Young to Kill So Young to Die”. His story was featured in newspapers, magazines, TV shows, books, songs, and documentaries. He became a symbol of the social problems that plagued many inner-city communities in America: poverty, drugs, gangs, guns, violence, abuse, neglect, and hopelessness.

His story also sparked a debate about how to deal with juvenile offenders and prevent youth violence. Some argued for tougher laws and harsher punishments for young criminals. Others advocated for more intervention programs and support services for at-risk children and families. Some blamed the parents or the gangs for Robert’s fate. Others blamed the system or the society for failing him.

Robert’s story is still relevant today as many of the issues that he faced are still present in some communities. His story is also a reminder of the potential and tragedy that lies within every child. As one of his friends said: “He could have been anything he wanted to be.”

Doms Desk

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