CHICAGO — A man once featured in a Peabody-award winning documentary series about at-risk youth in Chicago was shot to death last week on the West Side.
Keontay Hightie, 21, was on a porch in the 3800 block of West Maypole around 11:40 a.m. on June 8 when he was fatally shot during an argument, according to Chicago police and the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
Hightie was pronounced dead at Stroger Hospital. He is survived by his mother and two children, according to his former attorney. His family could not be reached for comment.
Hightie was featured in the Vice series “Last Chance High,” which aired in 2014 and chronicled the lives of several students at Moses Montefiore Academy, at the time the only CPS elementary school for special needs students. The school was closed in 2016.
In one scene, a former high-ranking West Side gang member visited the school and insisted that he give Hightie a haircut to remove the “VL” — short for “Vice Lords,” the longtime West Side gang with dozens of factions — that was etched on the side of his head.
Later on, Hightie explained that he started selling drugs when he was about 8 years old.
“I was selling it right after school,” Hightie said. “I was making like, $500, $400 a day. My momma was sick. She was in the hospital.”
In another scene, the then-16-year-old Hightie tells the photographer that he was recently shot in his leg.
“I’m trying to heal. Just got popped,” he said. “Still here. That all that matter.”
Six of Hightie’s friends were murdered by the time he was 16 years old.
Since the series aired, Hightie had the letters “VL” tattooed on face, just under his right eye. The letter “B” was also tattooed between his eyebrows.
In February 2021, he and another person were arrested downtown.
Police said the two were in a car that was stolen weeks earlier in south suburban Oak Forest. While searching the vehicle, police said they found a gun stashed under the hood. It was equipped with a switch that allowed the gun to fire fully automatic.
He was charged with being a felon in possession of a gun, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and criminal trespass to a vehicle, court records show. In April, Cook County prosecutors dropped the weapons charges and Hightie pleaded guilty to criminal trespass to a vehicle. He’d spent the previous 364 days on electronic monitoring, and Cook County Judge Domenica Stephenson sentenced him to time served.
Jayne Ingles represented Hightie in that case. She said Hightie was “a very likeable person” who had “a childlike way about him.”
“He seemed very young and almost a little naive,” said Ingles, who noted that Hightie’s mother always accompanied him on days when he had to appear in court.
After his case was adjudicated in April, Hightie — dressed in a navy blue suit — insisted that he and Ingles take a photo together.
Ingles said she urged Hightie to remove his facial tattoos, telling him he needed “a fresh start.”
“He looked, from the neck down, like he was a law student or a professional,” she said. “The way he was dressed and the way he presented himself seemed disjointed from the labeling on his face.”