Back of the Yards shooting: 4 suspects now charged with attempted murder

September 24, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Bryon Champ, 21, and Tabari Young, 22, allegedly opened fire at a basketball court at Cornell Square Park on Thursday night. One of them was armed with an AK-47 assault weapon, police say. The other allegedly had a .22 caliber revolver. Officials said there are conflicting statements from the defendants on who had which gun.

"Defendant Champ and Tabari Young shot at the 13 people in the park, striking all of them," John Dillon, assistant Cook County state's attorney, said. The youngest victim, 3-year-old Deonta Howard, is in good condition at a local hospital. He had plastic surgery after a bullet tore through his ear and came out his jaw. His family released a new picture of the boy on Tuesday.

Police say the assault-style gun was supplied by Kewane Gatewood, 20, police said, and Brad Jett, 22, acted as lookout. The assault weapon has not been located, but police say cartridges were found at the scene.

All four men face three counts of attempted murder and aggravated battery with a weapon.

"Additional charges will be following. That was just a charging instrument to get these individuals into custody and the proceedings started," Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said.

Jett's family appeared in court on Tuesday. His attorney asked for a mental evaluation.

Supt. McCarthy said these arrests were the result of officers who work at a local high school and the community. "I want to acknowledge the uniform officers, the sergeant and two police officers from the ninth district actually generated some of the intelligence, based upon street level police work. This is a good example of what we refer to as community policing."

McCarthy said motivation behind the Back of the Yards shooting was retaliation, stemming from an unreported, gang-related shooting the week before in which Champ was injured.

"As a result, the retaliation took place at Cornell Park," he said. Officials said Champ had given the AK-47 to Gatewood for safe-keeping a few months ago, but then asked Gatewood to bring it back because he wanted revenge.

McCarthy said Champ never should been on the street. In 2012 he was convicted of unlawful use of a weapon by a felon. He was sentenced to boot camp.

"If Champ is not on the street, as he should not have been, this incident does not occur," McCarthy said. He wants stiffer penalties to keep offenders behind bars, and to break the cycle of gang retaliation.

Champ and Gatewood were arrested on Monday night, and one of them was identified as a shooter. The identity of a shooter or shooters, if known to investigators is often not revealed publicly until all suspects in the crime are charged. In this case, authorities say there may be additional arrests.

McCarthy called for "real action" on "reasonable gun laws" on the state and federal level to keep assault weapons out of communities.

"Illegal guns and weapons designed for war do not belong in Chicago or any other urban center in this country," McCarthy said. "Illegal guns drive violence. Illegal guns drive murder."

On Tuesday night, the mother of three-year-old Deonta Howard, the youngest of the 13 victims in last week's shooting, says she's grateful.

"I think I'm the luckiest mother in the world," said Shamarah Legget, victim's mother.

Her son is still recovering at Mt. Sinai Hospital.

"Whoever did that, they didn't have a heart. They didn't care at all," said Niesha Brannon, shooting victim.

33-year-old Niesha Brannon says she's never seen any of the suspects before. She was walking her dog in the park when the gunfire broke out. She ran, but a bullet struck her in the back. It's still lodged near her shoulder. She is also glad the suspects are in custody.

"I hope y'all rot in jail for what you did," said Brannon.

Prosecutors say all four suspects have admitted their involvement, though they have offered conflicting versions of what happened. All are being held without bond.

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