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‘They Didn't Have To Kill Him’: Uber Driver And Father Of 3 Shot To Death In Attempted Carjacking

Joseph Schelstraete was “just out trying to make a dollar," police said after he was shot and killed.

By Dorian Geiger
Joseph Schelstraete Pd

An Indiana rideshare driver was shot to death this week during a carjacking outside of Chicago, according to police. 

Joseph Schelstraete, 38, was fatally shot as three men attempted to take his car in the Chicago suburb of Cicero on Monday. Police were dispatched to an intersection roughly nine miles east of Chicago at about 7:34 p.m. Schelstraete was located inside his blue Ford Focus shot in the head. 

“The victim stopped his vehicle in the middle of the street when four male subjects emerged,” Cicero Police Department said in a statement. “The subjects entered the victim’s vehicle and attempted to carjack him. One offender shot the victim in the head.”

Some items were taken from Schelstraete in the course of the robbery, police said. He was shot after he had turned over his cell phone to the assailants.

Schelstraete was rushed to hospital and placed on life support after the shooting but was declared brain dead; he died shortly before noon.

"There are many senseless factors of this tragedy," Kim Bova, Schelstraete's aunt, told WBBM-TV. "They didn't have to kill him. He would have given them anything they wanted."

Police apprehended one juvenile suspect approximately two blocks from the shooting; the three other suspects are still wanted, according to police.

Authorities described Schelstraete, who is a father of three from northwest Indiana, as a “hard-working guy.” 

“[He] was just out trying to make a dollar," Cicero Police Chief Jerry Chlada Jr. told reporters on Tuesday. "He truly is a victim — just in the wrong place at the wrong time, unfortunately." 

Schelstraete began driving for Uber in January 2019. 

“We are saddened to hear about the senseless act of violence that took the life of Mr. Schelstraete,” a spokesperson for Uber told Oxygen.com in a statement. “Our thoughts are with his family and we are working with law enforcement on their investigation."

Rideshare driving was a second gig for Schelstraete, according to relatives.

"Working two jobs,” Bova said. “He worked at the steel mill and then did Uber to provide for his three children. Joey was dedicated and he loved it. It wasn't an obligation or a chore. He loved being with his children."

Another Uber driver was attacked in a similar incident near where Schelstraete was killed roughly a month ago, according to police. An Uber spokesperson confirmed that carjackings and other violent assaults on rideshare drivers have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A spokesperson for the Cicero Police Department wasn’t immediately available for comment on the ongoing investigation on Thursday. 

Police are now asking for the public’s help in tracking down the remaining suspects involved in Schelstraete's death. They’ve described the men as being Black and in their late teens or early twenties. 

Officials also advised homeowners in the area to contact authorities if any “random clothing” or other discarded items on their property are found. Law enforcement also encouraged the public to check home video surveillance systems for any signs of the alleged carjackers on the night of Schelstraete’s death.

Anyone with information related to the shooting is urged to contact the Cicero Police Department at 708-652-2130.

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