Singer who earned a major following after participating in the Mexican version of "The Voice" died Saturday after being shot Thursday in a vehicle in the Brighton Park neighborhood on the Southwest Side, officials said.
Alejandro "Jano" Fuentes was in a car in the 4300 block of South Archer Avenue after celebrating his 45th birthday with friends and colleagues when someone walked up, showed him a gun and told him to get out.
When he wouldn't get out of the car, the gunman fired multiple shots, hitting him in the head. Fuentes was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital in critical condition and was pronounced dead there at 2:07 p.m., according to the Cook County medical examiner's office.
Police detectives search for evidence in a car involved in a shooting scene at a parking lot on the 4300 block of South Archer Avenue on June 16, 2016, in Chicago. A 45-year-old man was shot and transported to Mount Sinai Hospital. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)
Police initially said the man had been pronounced dead soon after the shooting, but he was placed on life support so relatives could arrive from Mexico, according to family and friends.
Fuentes gained fame in his native Mexico after participating in the Mexican version of "The Voice" in 2011. He opened a performing arts studio in Brighton Park called Tras Bambalinas, Spanish for Backstage, which taught young people singing, dancing, acting and modeling. He was shot on the same block as the studio, which also served as his home, according to records.
Since opening Tras Bambalinas, Fuentes has been a regular at Mexican-American cultural events, staging elaborate costumed musicals as he taught youngsters the fundamentals of performing arts and entertaining.
"He was a very talented guy — one of a kind," said Miguel Sanchez, who first worked with Fuentes in Mexico two years ago. Friends of Fuentes had difficulty understanding who would attack a man he considered a mentor.
"That's why it's terrible for us, because he didn't have any enemies, he didn't have a problem with nobody. He was a gentleman," Sanchez said.
"The world doesn't know how big of a loss that this is right now," said Victor Gulley, co-founder of A Taste of Theater, a Pilsen-based community theater organization that helped Fuentes' group stage a musical last year. "To have someone of his caliber gone — and I have no idea why."
Gulley said he learned of Fuentes' shooting Friday morning on Facebook and spent much of the day struggling to understand how a man as supremely talented as Fuentes could earn such a fate.
"He was one of the most talented people I have ever known," Gulley said. "He could sing, he could dance, he could write the music, perform it and most importantly he could teach it. I've never ever met anyone as talented as he was in those arenas."
Along with singing, he was a talented songwriter who loved writing musicals and setting choreography to accompany his music and imparted it to others. He had a hand in his entire creations, Gulley said.
"He could do it all. He even did makeup, which was amazing. He did the hair and makeup for all of the people in the production."
He compared Fuentes to the singer Prince, who also was renowned for taking part in every aspect of his art. But Gulley said Fuentes took it one step further.
"I mean Prince is a modern-future virtuoso; so he could write and perform the music and all that stuff. But I don't think he ever did hair and makeup for the whole band," Gulley laughed.
Fuentes had also begun teaching art to students at Daley Elementary School in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, Gulley added.
Fuentes "just floored the kids. They've been demanding that he come back and unfortunately I had to deliver the news that he might not ever come back," Gulley said.
Alejandra Castaneda, 53, and her husband, Jose, 43, own Monterrey Bakery next door to the studio where Fuentes taught dance classes. They were winding down from a long day Thursday in their home above the bakery — she was taking a bath, he was watching television — when Jose said he heard shots ring out around 10 p.m., followed by the sound of a woman desperately screaming.
Castaneda said Fuentes would come into the bakery for coffee and a pastry several times a week, and that he was a humble, good-natured man.
Police said Saturday no one was in custody.
Chicago Tribune's Marion Renault and Carlos Sadovi contributed.