CHICAGO (WLS) -- The decision not to file charges in the high-profile murder of a 7-year-old girl has a top Chicago police commander and North Side alderman publicly criticizing the Cook County State's Attorney's Office. Some community leaders say the dispute could make it more difficult for police to solve cases.
Two innocent young girls were sitting in the back of their parent's car when a gunmen opened fire, killing 7-year-old Serenity Broughton and injuring her 6-year-old sister Aubrey. Their family called on authorities to find the gunman. And according to law enforcement sources, several weeks later, witnesses helped lead police to the man they believe was responsible. But sources told Eyewitness News that suspect was released without charges last week.
"Short of someone coming forward and saying they did it, the state's attorney has to do their job and try these cases," said Ald. Gilbert Villegas, 36th Ward.
Area 5 Detective Commander Eric Winstrom sent an internal email to nearly 200 officers in his unit. In it, Winstrom wrote: "I am extremely proud of the work done on this case. This case should have been charged."
Winstrom also wrote that he was willing to take the rare step of going directly to a judge to approve charges, circumventing the State's Attorney's office. Activists say failure to charge a suspect discourages those who come forward to help solve crime.
"This is why witnesses don't come forward, because of things like this," community activist Andrew Holmes said.
The State's attorney's office issued statement, however, saying: "After a thorough review of the information presented to us by police, we concluded that the evidence was insufficient to meet our burden of proof to file murder charges at this time and the police agreed with this decision. The Cook County State's Attorney's Office is committed to seeking justice for victims and will continue to work with the Chicago Police Department as they further investigate this crime."
Commander Winstrom said he believes CPD detectives did meet the burden of proof.
"Having people that we know committed murders, for cases we are confident should be charged, walking the streets is demoralizing," he said.
"To not try these cases and push back on the detectives saying we want more is a disservice to the detectives doing a great job but also to our community," Villegas said.
Chicago police said they're committed to finding those responsible for Serenity's murder. They say they are working closely with the state's attorney's office to bring justice for the family.