March 12, 1983|
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Died||September 1, 1994
Roseland, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Occupation||Black Disciples gang member|
|Criminal charge||1994 - Murder, Arson, Armed Robbery, Drug Possession|
Robert "Yummy" Sandifer (March 12, 1983 — September 1, 1994) was an American street gang member whose murder by fellow gang members in Chicago, Illinois garnered national attention. He appeared on the cover of TIME magazine in September 1994.
Nicknamed Yummy because of his love of cookies, standing 4'6 Sandifer was a young member of the street gang the Black Disciples (BD). After committing murder, arson and armed robbery, he was murdered by 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 on March 12, 1983. Sandifer's mother, Lorina Sandifer had over 30 misdemeanor arrests, many of which were drug related. Sandifer's father, Robert Akins, was absent for all of Sandifer's life due to incarceration. Sandifer was a danger, according to child welfare authorities, severely mistreated and neglected. Before he was 3, Sandifer was already known to Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Sandifer was alleged to have had cigarette burns on his arms and neck as well as linear bruising consistent with physical beatings. In 1986, Sandifer and his siblings were removed from his mother's home by DCFS and were sent to live with their grandmother. 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 8, quit attending school and began to roam the streets stealing cars and breaking into houses. 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.
Yummy was known for bullying and extorting money from local children and the community in the Chicago neighborhood of Roseland. He liked luxury cars and, remarkably, was able to drive them despite his small stature. 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.
On August 28, 1994, Sandifer began harassing locals from his neighborhood. He opened fire several times with a 9 millimeter semiautomatic pistol, striking several youths. Sandifer quickly fled the scene. Shavon Dean, age 14, 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 only 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 still in hiding, 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 some place safe and ordered into a waiting car. Instead, he was brought to a viaduct underpass and told to get on his knees. While on his knees, he was shot twice in the back of his head by Cragg and Derrick Hardaway. Sandifer's body was discovered by the Chicago Police Department in the early morning of September 1. Both Cragg and Derrick Hardaway were later convicted of Sandifer's murder. Sandifer's funeral was held at the Youth Center Church of God in Christ in Chicago's Northwest Side. 
Notes and references
- Long, Elizabeth Valk (19 September 1994). "To Our Readers". TIME. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
- Gibbs, Nancy R.; Grace, Julie; Hull, Jon D. (19 September 1994). "Murder in Miniature". TIME. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
- Grace, Julie (12 September 1994). "There Are No Children Here". TIME. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
- Hewitt, Bill (19 September 1994). "Death at an Early Age". People. pp. 52–54. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
- "TIME Magazine Cover: Robert (Yummy) Sandifer". TIME. 19 September 1994. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
- Gibbs, Nancy R. (September 19, 1994). "Murder In Miniature". Times. Retrieved September 15, 2013.
- Terry, Don (September 8, 1994). "In an 11-Year-Old's Funeral, a Grim Lesson". The New-York Times. Retrieved September 15, 2013.