Police: Break in 'code of silence' leads to arrest

February 18, 2010 10:00:00 PM PST
A suspect has been charged in a shooting that paralyzed a 15-year-old CPS student last September.

After five months, police said they were able to make the arrest because someone broke the so-called code of silence that often stalls investigations.

Robert Sansberry, 15, will be tried as an adult in the case. Sansberry allegedly shot Ondelee Perteet at close range, hitting the vertebrae in Perteet's neck. Perteet, a bright, athletic teenager, is now a quadriplegic.

There were multiple witnesses to the shooting, but no one would come forward to testify until now. Just before 2 a.m., detectives arrived at Perteet's apartment with news.

"And they come in and say we've made an arrest. He's in custody and he's going to be charged, and I'm like, 'Oh, my God! Thank you Jesus, Thank you Jesus, Thank you Jesus,'" said Detreena Perteet, Ondelee Perteet's mother.

Sansberry is charged with aggravated battery with a firearm. Prosecutors said Sansberry, who is a gang member, fired his gun after Perteet ordered him to leave a relative's party at a West Side home.

Detectives kept working the witnesses-- some of whom know Perteet and the challenges he now faces because of his injuries-- to build up trust; now decided to come forward.

"Ninety-nine-percent of the witnesses we have want to do the right thing but they're reluctant ? and one of those reasons would be with that code of silence that has been out there as long as I've been doing this," said Cmdr. Joe Salemme, Chicago Police Dept. "It was broken by the detectives. It's all about building relationships."

Perteet undergoes therapy three times a week and has made remarkable progress. He now has functional use of his left arm, but he's looking at a life very much unlike the one he knew. Nonetheless Perteet is determined, as is his mom, who feels like some of the weight has been lifted with this arrest.

"I'm just happy. I am elated. I am ecstatic. At the same time I feel sad for the kid that did this. His life won't be the same either," said Detreena Perteet.