Loved ones say slain man was kind, laid-back, family-oriented

‘It’s a really big loss for anyone who knows him’

Jaylin Coleman of Calumet City was about 8 years old when she took her first college trip.

Her uncle Aaron E. Harris of Joliet took Jaylin and her sister Jameka to a friends and family day at Northern Illinois University, where Harris had graduated with a degree in business, Jaylin said.

Harris was shot to death outside the Cantigny Post 367 Veterans of Foreign Wars hall while a party was being held inside Saturday night.

Harris’ killer remains at large. Joliet police Sgt. Dwayne English said the homicide investigation remains “active and ongoing.”

Jaylin said that trip inspired her to attend college and she always considered Harris a father figure who gave good advice and helped anyone in need.

“He would give you the shirt off his back or the socks off his feet,” Jaylin said. “He was just genuinely kindhearted, very calm, laid-back, chill guy.”

‘My heart just goes out to his kids’

Felicia Harris of Calumet City, Jaylin’s mother and Aaron’s sister, said she wished she’d been shot instead of Aaron.

“My heart just goes out to his kids,” Felicia said. “Aaron would do anything for anybody. He was so nonconfrontational. He had no issues with anybody. He was a lovable guy. Everybody loved being around him.”

Kimmar Ezell of Joliet, Aaron’s cousin, said everyone spoke positively of Aaron.

“Aaron was the most caring, loving person you would meet, literally,” Ezell said. “This is like the saddest thing. He was such a great person. His kids were his best friends. He would do anything for them.”

Ezell said most people have something “that will set them off,” but Aaron didn’t.

“I have never seen him angry or upset,” Ezell said. “He was very levelheaded. As a kid, he was a bright student. He’d help the kids in his class … he was a tutor without actually being a tutor.”

Natalie Coleman, Will County board member and CEO of After the Peanut, said in an email that she and Aaron both loved basketball when they were kids, and they attended the same church, too.

Aaron was “quiet, humble, caring, and giving” – a great role model and “genuine protector,” Natalie wrote. Aaron had a smile that “lit up a room” and his children “were his light,” she wrote.

“I am deeply saddened for his children, they are simply too young to understand this atrocity,” Natalie wrote. “My family and I do not have the words to fully express how it feels for Aaron to be gone. Our family is angry, frustrated and disappointed. As any family would, we eagerly anticipate justice for the senseless and horrendous murder of Aaron Harris.”

‘It’s a really big loss for anyone who knows him’

Marcus Cage of Joliet, who was good friends with Aaron in high school and in their 20s – they even vacationed together – said he learned about Aaron’s death when someone in church told him.

“He was a real down-to-earth friend and family-oriented person,” Cage said. “I prayerfully hope they find out who did this, and that justice will be served.”

Arlynd “Joliet D.O.E.” Edwards of Georgia said he’s known Aaron since their high school days at Joliet Central. Edwards said he’s never seen Aaron angry or in a fight or “out of pocket” or have any enemies.

Aaron had “great energy” and a “great spirit,” Edwards said.

“He just went to work and took care of his kids … this was a day-to-day father,” Edwards said. “I’d call him and he’d be making breakfast or taking his son to school.”

Edwards said Aaron was the friend who believed in Edwards when Edwards started his music career and fully supported Edwards’ dreams and aspirations.

“He was with me through that whole journey,” Edwards said. “It’s a really big loss for anyone who knows him ... he was always a really great dude who would give his last to make sure you were good.”

Tiffany Bass, who said she lived in Plainfield with Aaron and their son Cameron, met Aaron through a long-time mutual friend 12 years ago this Thanksgiving. Bass and Aaron were to be married this year and hoped to buy a house by Christmas, she said.

“We never had a fight, ever,” Bass said. “He never even raised his voice ... he’d be the bad person in a situation just to make the other person feel good.”

Bass said Aaron worked at Bunge in Channahon and often worked 12-hour shifts. Aaron walked his dog every day, took his son to the YMCA and his family on vacation, and had a solution to every problem, she said.

Bass said she was with Aaron when they were walking up the sidewalk into Cantigny Post on Saturday night for a “sneaker ball” birthday party, that she called 911 and that she went to the hospital with him.

“I never left him,” Bass said. “He was my best friend. And everything is, like, over now. I feel my world has just shattered ... I’m so upset, I can’t even pray.”

Denise M. Baran-Unland

Denise M. Baran-Unland is the features editor for The Herald-News in Joliet. She covers a variety of human interest stories. She also writes the long-time weekly tribute feature “An Extraordinary Life about local people who have died. She studied journalism at the College of St. Francis in Joliet, now the University of St. Francis.