Christopher Bugembe’s family loved him, but his re-entry into society after a prison sentence in 2017 came with some anxiety.
His previous legal troubles put the family through a lot, and they knew he would need help getting back on his feet.
But his eldest daughter, Tavia Bugembe, just wanted her father back.
At 13, she had never lived with him before, but she knew he was a good father. Just before his release, she told him something that probably helped change her life: She wanted to move from Memphis to Milwaukee to live with him.
Once he was released, Christopher Bugembe went straight to Memphis to search for her and her siblings. From then on, her sisters and her brother said, her priorities changed. There was a calm about him that they hadn’t noticed before. He said that he was tired of the lifestyle he previously lived. He matured.
“The focus completely shifted from the street to her children,” said her sister, Amber Hoon. “I was so excited to see where she was going with it.”
Christopher Bugembe, 37, who is remembered by family members as a silver-tongued chump who made big hits for his six children, was killed in a July 22 Northside shooting that also took the life of Valentino. I. Stokes, 41 years old.
She arrived on a visit to her hometown just a month after moving with four of her children and her partner to Dallas, where she hoped to escape the trappings of Milwaukee and start anew.
“He and I started to get close again in the last two years,” said his brother Zach Hoon. “I thought he had more time to approach me, and this happens. I want my brother back.
In the weeks since, the family has struggled to come to terms with the injustice of his death and society’s reaction to it.
initial means shooting reports described Christopher Bugembe as a “37-year-old Wauwatosa man,” and the family has been unable to contact police for updates on the investigation, a common situation for families of homicide victims in Milwaukee.
It’s these kinds of things that make Christopher Bugembe’s family worry that he will become a nameless, faceless statistic, or other unsolved caseat a time of historic gun violence in Milwaukee.
“I feel like when these kinds of deaths happen, they’re just dismissed as ‘Oh yeah, just another bully,'” said his sister, Paulina Bugembe-Kuwahara. “He was a complete person. He is so charming, loving and loyal. He was a good father. He was doing the best he could.”
Police have released almost no details about the shooting, which was reported at 12:45 am in the 5700 block of West Fond du Lac Avenue. The circumstances leading up to this are under investigation and no arrests have been made, police said.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Milwaukee Police at 414-935-7360, or to remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 414-224-Tips or use the P3 Tips app. Crime Stoppers is offering up to $1,000 for information leading to an arrest.
Family members of both victims said they know little about how the shooting happened, but they didn’t know Bugembe and Stokes knew each other. Bugembe’s family believes he was targeted, and it appears that Stokes was an innocent bystander having lunch with his cousins.
“He was a lovely, easygoing, laid-back, fun person,” his mother, Donna Stokes, said in a brief interview with the Journal Sentinel.
The family described Christopher Bugembe as a keen basketball fan with a quick wit and fun, who had prospered as a family man since he was released from prison in 2017.
In Dallas, which he referred to as “Lucifer’s backyard” for its warmth, he found and rented the house of his dreams, a house with an outdoor space, Bugembe-Kuwahara said. After learning how to barbeque from her brothers through video calls, she started barbecuing every day.
Tavia Bugembe, now 18, said her father was determined to help his children build a life for themselves and encouraged them to pursue whatever interests they developed. He didn’t want them to have the same journey in life that he had.
His kids want to play sports, so he took them to practice, watched their games, and played with them in between. Tavia Bugembe wants to be a beautician, so she helped her devise a plan to save money for school and rent space to start seeing clients.
There was a time when Christopher Bugembe’s family felt anxious for him in their lives. Now, they can’t imagine a life without him.
“He was the best father ever,” said Tavia Bugembe. “We weren’t hungry. Anything we needed, he supported us.
“It’s going to be very difficult to get used to him not being here,” said Tavia Bugembe.
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This article originally appeared on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Christopher Bugembe changed his life before the fatal shooting