American gangster and murder victim
|Born|| ( 1983-03-12 ) March 12, 1983|
|Died||September 1, 1994 (1994-09-01) (aged 11)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Cause of death||Murdered by gunshots|
|Occupation||Street gang member|
|Criminal charge||Murder, arson, armed robbery, drug possession|
Robert "Yummy" Sandifer (March 12, 1983 — September 1, 1994) was an 11-year-old American boy from Chicago, Illinois. Sandifer's murder by fellow gang members in Chicago garnered national attention because of his age, resulting in his appearance on the cover of TIME magazine in September 1994. Nicknamed Yummy because of his love of cookies, standing 137 cm (4 ft 6 in), Sandifer was a young member of the street gang the Black Disciples (BD). After committing murder, arson and armed robbery, he was murdered by his own fellow gang members who feared he could become an informant, and that he was attracting too much attention towards their activities. Coverage of Sandifer's death and retrospectives on his short, violent life were widely published in the American media. Sandifer became a symbol of the gang problem in American inner cities, the failure of social safety nets, and the shortcomings of the juvenile justice system.
Robert Sandifer was born in Chicago, Illinois on March 12, 1983. Sandifer's mother, Lorina Sandifer, had over 30 arrests while prostituting, many of which were drug-related. Sandifer's father, Robert Akins, was absent throughout Sandifer's life due to incarceration for a felony gun charge. Sandifer was physically abused from the time he was an infant. Before he was three years old, Sandifer was already known to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Physical examinations showed that Sandifer was alleged to have had cigarette burns on his arms and neck as well as linear bruising consistent with physical beatings. Lorina initially blamed the abuse on Sandifer's father, although she later recanted.
In 1986, Sandifer and his siblings were removed from his mother's home by DCFS and were sent to live with their grandmother in the Roseland neighborhood of Chicago. His grandmother's residence contained as many as 19 children on some occasions. By most accounts, his grandmother's home was not much better than Sandifer's previous home. Sandifer, by the age of eight, quit attending school and began to roam the streets stealing cars and breaking into houses. At the age of ten, Sandifer was arrested on charges of armed robbery. A psychological examiner at the time reported that "Robert is a child growing up without any encouragement and support," and that he "has a sense of failure that has infiltrated almost every aspect of his inner self."
In 1993, Sandifer and his siblings were removed from his grandmother's home and were sent to the Lawrence Hall DCFS shelter on Chicago's North Side, from which Sandifer ran away and never returned. From 1993 until his death, Sandifer's whereabouts and living arrangements remain unclear, although he continued to be arrested by the authorities.
Sandifer was known for bullying and stealing money from children and the community in the Chicago neighborhood of Roseland. He liked luxury cars, and remarkably, was able to drive them despite his small size. Many of his 23 felonies and 5 misdemeanors were committed in the course of running errands for street gangs. The penal system had no way to keep him out of trouble and the courts were helpless to lock him away because he was too young for juvenile detention and too dangerous to be placed with children his age. He never got in serious trouble for his crimes due to his age.
On August 28, 1994, Sandifer was ordered to do a favor for his gang. He opened fire several times with a 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistol, striking several youths. Sandifer quickly fled the scene. Among the victims was 14-year-old Shavon Dean, who was hit by a stray bullet and later died from her gunshot wounds. The crime spree made national headlines. The nation was shocked by the brutality of the crime and the fact that the alleged perpetrator was 11 years old. The Chicago Police began a manhunt for Sandifer. According to Sgt. Ronald Palmer, of the Chicago Police, Sandifer's actions were a gang initiation gone wrong.
On August 31, while standing on the porch of a neighbor after asking to call his grandmother (in whom he had the greatest trust), Sandifer was met by brothers Cragg and Derrick Hardaway, ages 16 and 14, members of the Black Disciples street gang. Sandifer was told he was being taken to a safe location and ordered into a waiting car. Instead, he was taken to a railroad underpass at East 108th Street and South Dauphin Avenue and told to get on his knees. While kneeling, Sandifer was shot twice in the back of the head by the Hardaway brothers. Sandifer's body was discovered by the Chicago Police Department in the early morning of September 1. Both Hardaways were later convicted of Sandifer's murder.
Around 400 people attended Sandifer's funeral, which was held at the Youth Center Church of God in Christ on Chicago's Northwest Side.