Updated 10/13/12 – 12:23 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — A 73-year-old man was shot dead Friday night in the South Chicago neighborhood, authorities said.

The man was shot in the head in the 6800 block of South East End Avenue about 7:15 p.m., said police News Affairs Officer Michael Sullivan, citing preliminary information.

William Thomas, of the 1700 block of East 68th Street, was pronounced dead at the scene at 7:35 p.m., according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.

Witnesses said they heard up to nine gunshots. Several people fled the scene when the shots rang out, but Thomas’ body was found laying on the sidewalk. he had been shot in the head.

Witnesses said Thomas was shot while in a courtyard that sits between several apartment buildings on East End Avenue. Neighbors said he was sitting on a planter in the courtyard when he was hit by a stray bullet.

Local residents said crime has been a major problem on that block, and they are living in fear.

Sylvia Brooks said the courtyard has been a haven for drugs and prostitution, and there have been several shootings there. She said local residents have asked the alderman to do something about the problem — by either tearing down the courtyard, adding more lights to the area, or restoring two-way traffic on surrounding streets, which are largely one-way.

Thomas’ relatives said he was the Bill Cosby of the family. He was a widower with four children, and also a janitor and property manager for several buildings for about 45 years.

Thomas’ niece, Ursula Woodall Berry-Hill said, “the gun violence has to stop. It has to be something that we all can do together, and with the help of all the people around, and the wards, and things of that nature, and all of these cops doing a great job, and you guys casting it, maybe we can have a resolution.”

Area Central detectives continued to collect details Friday night, but do not believe Thomas was the intended target.

Community activist Andrew Holmes was offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the suspect, and the discovery of the murder weapon.

(The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.)

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