This booking photo provided Sept. 24, 2013 by the Chicago Police Department shows 21-year-old Bryon Champ. Champ was one of four men charged in relation to a shooting that injured 13 people including a 3-year-old boy at Cornell Square Park on Chicago’s southwest side on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Chicago Police Department)
by Jayson Keyser
CHICAGO (AP) — A Chicago man who was clipped in the leg by gunfire went looking for revenge, leading fellow gang members to a crowded park, where one of them unleashed more than a dozen bullets from an assault rifle in a shooting that wounded 13 people, including a 3-year-old boy, authorities say.
Thursday night’s attack at a basketball court on Chicago’s southwest side did injure several gang members. But the rapid spray of bullets also struck bystanders in a shooting that has again focused national attention on gang bloodshed in the nation’s third-largest city.
Authorities announced Tuesday that four men have been charged, including the suspected primary shooter, a second man accused of firing a .22-caliber revolver, a lookout and the man prosecutors say supplied the assault rifle.
A judge denied bail for the group, who appeared lined up in court still wearing the street clothes they had on when they were arrested. Each is charged with attempted murder and aggravated battery with a firearm, though additional charges were expected. A defense attorney said each of the four denied the charges, and one of their mothers cried in the second row of the gallery.
“There’s a super-heated group of individuals who are involved in gun violence as both victims and offenders,” police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said at a news conference. “And in this case we’ve got them both wrapped into one.
“This individual was a victim of gun violence and then became the offender,” he said of the man authorities say was the central player in the shooting.
Bryon Champ and his co-defendants are members of the Blackstones gang, prosecutors said. After Champ was grazed by gunfire from a rival gang member, co-defendant Brad Jett, 22, went on a scouting mission to find members of the rival Gangster Disciples and spotted several of them in the Cornell Square Park, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said.
A pickup basketball game was underway and the park was crowded with neighborhood residents out late enjoying one of the last warm nights of summer.
A third suspect, Kewane Gatewood, 20, who had kept the assault rifle under his bed for several months, deposited the weapon in a stash house where Champ then picked it up, Cook County State’s Attorney John Dillon said in court Tuesday.
Twenty-two-year-old Tabari Young, a second gunman armed with a revolver, joined Jett and Champ, and the men drove to the park, tailed by another car meant to provide cover from police and rival gang members, prosecutors said.
With Jett serving as lookout in a gangway leading the park, the other two men got out on foot and opened fire, prosecutors say. At least 14 rounds were fired from the AK-47-style rifle, a weapon that authorities say has rarely been used in Chicago.
One bullet struck 3-year-old Deonta Howard just behind his right ear and exited from his face. He has had surgery and is recovering but is expected to need plastic surgery.
Two teenagers were also among the wounded.
The assailants then got back in the car and fled.
Police gave a slightly different account, saying Young was armed with the assault rifle and Champ with another weapon. In another difference, McCarthy said detectives believed there were no individual intended targets and that the assailants hit the park because it was part of territory controlled by the Gangster Disciples.
Neither the police nor the state’s attorney’s office could immediately reconcile the differing accounts.
The two guns have not been recovered, prosecutors said.
Authorities say Young has more than a dozen previous arrests and have described Champ as a felon and a documented gang member.
Champ, who was convicted in July 2012 of unlawful use of a weapon by a felon, was previously sentenced to Cook County Jail’s boot camp.
McCarthy and Mayor Rahm Emanuel cited the charges and Champ’s record to reiterate their demands for tougher gun laws in Illinois.
“We need a three-year minimum penalty for illegally carrying a gun on our streets,” Emanuel said. “One of the shooters should have been behind bars rather than in Cornell Park on Thursday night.”
McCarthy said the investigation continues and more people could be charged.
Police had recorded 306 murders and 1,402 shootings this year in Chicago as of Sept. 15, down 20 and 22 percent, respectively, from the same period in 2012. Police say overall violent crime is down about 15 percent, according to figures released Monday.