Wesley A. Woodson, III, 20, was charged this morning with first degree murder and related charges in the shooting death of Dajae Coleman, 14, said Commander Jay Parrott of the Evanston Police Department at a press conference this afternoon. Dajae was shot as he was walking with friends in the 1500 block of Church Street at approximately 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 22. Mr. Woodson lives in the 1600 block of Ashland Ave., a short distance from where the shooting occurred.
Comdr. Parrott said, “Investigators were able to locate witnesses early on in the investigation as a result of neighborhood canvasses immediately after the shooting. As a result of locating multiple witnesses, Wesley A. Woodson III was identified as the person who shot Dajae Coleman.” In response to questions he said Mr. Woodson was seen in the act of shooting.
Comdr. Parrott said that, before the shooting, Dajae was at a party attended by a large group of teenagers. The party was broken up at about 10 p.m. after a fight erupted between two girls at the party. The Commander said this fight was unrelated to the subsequent shooting of Dajae.
After the party broke up, approximately 150 teenagers began walking east on Church Street towards Evanston Township High School, said the Commander. Several groups began fighting. Woodson knew a person in one of the groups, and he received a call from that person regarding the altercation.
“Woodson took it upon himself to retrieve a 9 mm. handgun and confront a group seen walking east in the 1500 block of Church Street,” said the Commander. “He fired four shots at the group. The group, which Dajae was part of, began to run away from the shooting. Dajae was shot in the back, with the bullet exiting his chest, while running,” said the Commander.
“The group Dajae was a part of was mistaken for the group that had been involved in the altercation that Woodson received a call on,” said the Commander. He said Dajae’s group was the first group that came by, and Mr. Woodson mistakenly assumed they were the group referred to by his associate.
“The investigation showed Woodson has a gang affiliation and this was a retaliatory act upon a group that had no gang affiliation,” said Cmdr. Parrott. “[Dajae] and his friends had no affiliation with street gangs.”
Four shell casings were recovered at the scene, but the weapon has not been recovered, said the Commander. He added that Mr. Woodson has not made a statement.
Mr. Woodson was previously arrested for possession of a controlled substance and for unlawful possession of a handgun, said the Commander. In the last six months he was the victim of a shooting, but he did not cooperate.
Mr. Woodson was arrested at his residence on Sept. 26, and the States Attorney approved charges on Sept. 27. Mr. Woodson appeared in bond court on Sept 28, and is being held without bond.
In response to questions, Comdr. Parrott said, there was “a police response” to the altercations that took place as the crowd from the party was walking east on Church Street.
Police Chief Richard Eddington expressed his sincere condolences to Dajae’s family. “The loss of Dajae is profound not only to the family but for the entire community. Senseless violence like this leaves scars on the community that are difficult to heal for many years. “
The Chief thanked Evanston police officers, officers with the North Regional Major Crime Task Force and the Cook County State’s Attorney Office for their work on the investigation.
Dajae’s family has announced that a visitation will be held this evening on Friday, Sept. 28 from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at Thompson Funeral Home, 1917 Asbury Ave. Funeral services will be held on Saturday, Sept. 29 at First Church of God Christian Life Center, 1524 Simpson St. The wake will be held from 10 to 11 a.m., followed by the funeral service at 11 a.m.
The Mayor is hosting a community meeting at 7 p.m. on Oct. 2 seeking solutions to address violence in Evanston. The meeting will take place at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Center, 1655 Foster St. All residents, community partners and youth-focused organizations are invited to attend.
The public is reminded that criminal charges contain allegations that are not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the state has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Mayor Elisabeth Tisdahl made the following statement at the press conference announcing charges had been brought in the murder of Dajae Coleman:
"Today the Evanston Police Department and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office announced the arrest of Wesley A. Woodson III of Evanston in connection with the murder of Dajae Coleman. Woodson has been charged with two counts of 1st Degree Murder and seven counts of Aggravated Discharge of Firearm. My thanks to the Evanston Police, the North Regional Major Crimes Task Force and the State’s Attorney’s Office for their fine work in apprehending and bringing charges against Dajae’s alleged killer.
"All of us in the City of Evanston also grieve with the family of Northwestern University student Harsha Maddula who was found dead last night in Wilmette Harbor after he had gone missing for several days. It is such a tragedy to lose these two young men in such a short period of time.
"This past week has been a difficult one for all of us in Evanston. Dajae’s killing shocked his friends, family and our entire community. Dajae was doing everything right with his life; his successes showed a promise we hope for all young men and women in Evanston. However, this bright promise for all Evanston youth remains endangered by senseless acts of violence and easy access to guns.
"As a community, we have worked together to make Evanston a safer place. Overall crime has decreased in recent years, but remains an issue in our community. The City, our schools and community organizations are providing more recreation and job programs for youth than ever before. Over 8,000Evanston youth were involved in City employment orrecreation programs this past summer.
"But more needs to be done. And will be done.
"We have too many guns in this community. We must work to get guns off the street through buy-back programs and other means until local jurisdictions have the authority to enact real gun control legislation. We know what it takes to engage youth in meaningful activities, but we must do more of it and we need more Evanston residents and businesses partnering with us.
"I have called a community meeting at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 2, at the Fleetwood Jourdain Community Center (1655 Foster St.) to bring together community members to discuss how we can bring more resources to our efforts to protect and engage our youth. I hope you will join me there.
"Evanston is a special place; it is a wonderful community to raise a family, go to school or run a business. The people who live in this city are talented, caring individuals. Evanston will move forward from these difficult times stronger and safer as we bring together the multiple talents and resources of our community to ensure the same bright promise of Dajae Coleman for all youth in Evanston."