CHICAGO (JTA) — Eliyahu Moscowitz, a kosher supervisor at a supermarket, was shot dead in Chicago on Simchat Torah in what local residents fear might be a killing spree.
Moscowitz, 24, was shot once in the head and left for dead on a rainy Monday night in the East Rogers Park neighborhood, about a mile from where he grew up. Police say robbery does not appear to have been a motive.
His killing followed the murder 36 hours earlier of Douglass Watts, 73, who also was shot once in the head as he walked his dogs in the same lakefront park a little before 10 a.m. Sunday.
Chicago Police have determined that the same gun was used in both killings. They released an image of Watts’ killer dressed all in black with a black ski mask obscuring his face.
Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said the two victims had no connection to each other and likely were chosen at random.
“There’s nothing on our end right now that points to these two people actually knowing each other,” he said.
Johnson also said it was too early to determine if the shootings were hate crimes. Moscowitz was an Orthodox Jew and Watts was gay.
The FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have also joined in the investigation of the two murders.
Moscowitz’s body was found shortly after his murder by Pastor John Elleson of Lakewood Chapel.
“He is laying there with the rain coming down,” Elleson said, “and if it was my son or my relative, I would just want someone to stand with them during this time.”
He added: “I just find my heart breaking with the gentleman is all.”
Rabbi Zelig Moscowitz remembered his first cousin.
“He was a wonderful, very kind, gentle, caring person,” Zelig Moscowitz said. “He was someone who uplifts others.”
After attending high school in Chicago, Eliyahu Moscowitz spent a year studying at the Mayanot Institute for Jewish Studies in Jerusalem before returning home to work as a mashgiach, or kosher supervisor, at the Jewel supermarket in suburban Evanston, where he was a cheerful presence in the kosher section.
After his murder, a local Facebook page contained tributes from some of the many customers that Moscowitz helped over the years. “Always a kind word and smile,” “Nicest person” and “Such a nice guy” were typical descriptions.
Moscowitz also was a fan of the game Pokemon GO and often played in parks in Chicago and the suburbs. He usually wore a bright red or orange T-shirt and was friends with a large group of fellow games enthusiasts.
On Tuesday, local players held a candlelit vigil on Loyola Beach, near where he was murdered; over 100 players turned out to honor their friend.
Moscowitz “looked like a sort of typical Orthodox Jewish guy that you would think you would have nothing in common with,” said Pokemon GO enthusiast Adam Thornburg. “That couldn’t be further from the truth.”
The diverse group remembered Moscowitz as a kind and funny player.
“He would trade his c***iest Pokemon to give us his best,” Ashley Honey recalled.
Omar Arango, who often played with Moscowitz, called him a “big, kindhearted gentleman.”
Because he was murdered on Simchat Torah, a day that observant Jews do not use telephones or computers, Moscowitz’s parents, Mendel and Esther, were unaware of their son’s death until hours after it occurred. His funeral is being held in Chicago on Wednesday.
In the wake of the murder, some Chicago residents are worried for their safety. Some have banded together to form dog walking groups in the area, where the police are stepping up their presence.
“People will go about their daily lives,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel told city residents following the Moscowitz murder. “But we want it to be done in a safe way. A smart and vigilant way.”