Man charged in toddler's shooting death

April 24 2010 (CHICAGO) Danzeal Finley, 21, faces first-degree murder and firearm charges.

Chicago police Supt. Jody Weis and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez announced the charges Saturday afternoon. They're hoping to make some headway in breaking the so called "code of silence" when it comes to bringing murder suspects to justice.

The young victim, Cynia Cole, was shot in the head while she was in the back seat of a car with her two young sisters. The gunman was apparently targeting the girl's father.

Danzeal Finley remained in a Cook County lockup Saturday night, charged in the fatal shooting.

Saturday morning, a judge denied bond for the Finley, an alleged gang member. There are questions about whether he allegedly targeted Cole's father in a possible retaliation, but mistakenly killed the toddler instead.

The family of Cynia Cole denies allegations her father is a gang member.

"The defendant in this case was, in fact, the victim of a shooting prior to this incident," Alvarez said.

The shooting happened late Wednesday night as the toddler sat in a car with her father and two young sisters. Investigators say Cynia Cole's parents had driven to the 600-block of East 92nd Place so the girl's mother could buy cigarettes. As she returned to the car, witnesses say a gunman wearing a black hooded sweatshirt walked to the vehicle and opened fire into the rear of the car where the children were sitting.

Cynia Cole was struck once in the back of the head.

As the shooter turned to flee, his hood fell off, and the girl's mother reportedly recognized him as Danzeal Finley, a man she had known from the neighborhood for five years.

The little girl died a short time later.

"It's senseless, and I'm tired of it. Too many bodies are dropping every day, but this is a child," said Jovan Haynes, Cynia Cole's godmother.

"How senseless that this defendant shot into the car and took her life away at such a young age," Alvarez said.

Cynia Cole's death, along with pleas on that day from her family for justice, prompted an outcry from a community plagued by gun violence.

Alvarez and Weis took the unusual step of attending the suspect's bond hearing Saturday to underscore what they think went right after the shooting. Rather than staying quiet, as is often the case, Cynia Cole's mother gave police the suspect's name.

Also, when Danzael Finley's mother heard detectives were searching for her son, she contacted the Rev. James Meeks, who arranged for the South Side man to voluntarily surrender to authorities.

Weis says he hopes the public's help in finding an alleged killer means the beginning of the end to the code of silence that exist when it comes to gangs and gun violence.

"Where communities are going to say, 'We are not going to allow a criminal who's taken a life --or who has attempted to take a life-- to sit in our community, remain at large, or possibly extract more violence. We're just not going to do it anymore,'" he said.

The so-called "code of silence" is an ongoing problem in Chicago and contributes to many murders going unsolved.

In 2008, the most recent year data is available, detectives solved just 181 of the 510 murders. That's a clearance rate of just 35.5 percent.

"If we know someone is in the community, the only person you're helping out by not saying something is the offender," said Weis.

Police say they are not sure whether Cynia Cole's murder was the result of a retaliation.

It is believed funeral arrangements are still pending for Cynia Cole. Her alleged killer is due back in court on Monday.

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