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In the past twelve months, roughly mid-August 2009, through mid-August 2010, there have been at least eight incidents in which at least one person was shot, and one in which shots struck an occupied car, resulting in at least four fatalities in Evanston. The RoundTable sat down with Evanston Chief of Police Richard Eddington to get an update on the status of the investigations into each incident.
Aug. 7, Davis Street Shooting
At 11:42 pm on Saturday night, Aug. 7, two young men, 16 and 17, were shot at Davis Street and Benson Avenue. The shooting reportedly resulted from a clash between groups from Evanston and Chicago. Both victims were Evanston residents; both survived the encounter, said Chief Eddington.
The investigation is a microcosm of the challenges the department faces, said the Chief: recalcitrant or uncooperative witnesses, a lack of community willingness to come forward and assist the police, delays at the state crime lab, and conflict resolution by firearm. Gang affiliation is not suspected as the genesis, as the Chief described the participants as “wannabes” more than actual gang members. The conflict resembles more a clash of rival high schools than rival gangs. Geography and not gang symbols led to gunplay, he said.
In the past, said Chief Eddington, “these issues never escalated to firearms. The people that are involved in this aren’t old enough to drive yet, and yet they’re making deadly force decisions.”
Failure of the public to come forward frustrates efforts to solve this case. On a video security camera, a man can be seen taking a picture and then running from the scene. Even if the picture showed nothing, what the photographer himself saw may prove valuable. A number of other citizens can be seen running through the camera’s vision. They have not come forward to help police.
As it stands, police have conflicting statements from the witnesses they have interviewed. A more robust camera system, such as that in the works, could possibly have confirmed one version over the other. A report from the crime lab will probably confirm one version, because everyone involved was given a gunshot residue test. If the tests prove inconclusive, however, and if no witnesses come forward, then it is most likely that no arrest warrants will issue and the shooter or shooters will remain at large.
July 15, Shooting in 1900 Block of Howard Street
On July 15 at about 12:42 a.m. in the 1900 block of Howard Street a 33-year old man, Van Ross, was shot in the lower back.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office asked for and was granted an arrest warrant seeking the arrest of a suspect for aggravated battery with a firearm.
The shooting was the result of an ongoing interpersonal dispute that led to the ultimate confrontation between Ross and the alleged offender, said the Chief. The two have known each other since childhood, but recently a series of escalations and retaliations increased in severity, he said.
“We default to using firearms to manage interpersonal conflicts,” said Chief Eddington, and this incident is just another example. These two men are not teenagers; both are in their early thirties. Chief Eddington expects that the suspect will be arrested soon.
July 4, Leslie Calvin, 300 Block of Ridge Avenue
On July 4 at about 6:55 p.m., Leslie Calvin, 19, was shot to death while driving at or about 330 Ridge Ave. The police have interviewed at least two “persons of interest” extensively, including the driver of the vehicle that is believed to have fled the scene carrying the shooter immediately after the murder and the person believed to have the strongest motive in the case. “We’re closer [to an arrest warrant issuing] but not substantially so. This is going to be a protracted investigation… it will go on for a period of time,” said the Chief.
Chief Eddington said the “persons of interest” had invoked the right to counsel limiting the amount of information the police can get from them in the future. The two cannot be held as material witnesses because jailing material witnesses is “a way cool TV thing… it’s way cool on Tuesday night on Law and Order” but in reality, in Cook County suspects can be held a maximum of 48 hours before they must be released or charged.”
May 20, Craig Romon Smith, Jr., 1100 Block of Darrow Avenue
Craig Romon Smith Jr. was fatally shot in the 1000 block of Darrow Avenue on May 20 of this year at about 11:36 p.m. Another man suffered multiple gun shot wounds but was transported to St. Francis Hospital and survived. The incident occurred after a group from Chicago, including the injured victim, joined a barbeque that had been ongoing for quite some time.
“We are waiting for firearm lab results,” said Chief Eddington. “Once we have those results we will conclude the investigation.” The state crime lab is the same lab used by Chicago and the other northern suburbs, and the Chief says he cannot predict how long it will take.
Feb. 6, Shots fired at a Car, 2200 Block of Emerson Street
Shots were fired at a car occupied by three persons in the 2200 block of Emerson Street at 1:39 a.m. on Feb. 6. Two Evanston men, 18 and 25, were charged. These men initially faced charges of aggravated discharge of a firearm, but after further investigation the State’s Attorney’s office elevated the charges to attempted murder against both. The case is progressing through the court system.
Feb. 5, Shooting in ETHS Parking Lot
Only about before hours before the Emerson Street shooting, in a dispute that according to Chief Eddington was unrelated to the later shooting, a young man was shot in the abdomen behind Evanston Township High School. Groups that had an ongoing interpersonal conflict happened to run into each other in the high school parking lot as the victim was picking up his girlfriend, a student, said the Chief. None of the other individuals involved was an ETHS student.
Three individuals have been arrested and face charges. One is out of custody in home monitoring, but two are in custody and awaiting trial, though a date for the trial has not yet been set.
Jan. 14, Knoxley C. Morrison, Fowler/Main
A 27-year-old Skokie, Knoxley C. Morrison, was found dead of gunshot wounds to the head on Fowler just north of Main Street at about 11:00 p.m. on Jan. 14, 2010. The shooting was later ruled a homicide.
Police suspect that the incident was a drug rip-off gone bad, said the Chief. The murderer, it is thought, planned to shoot Mr. Morrison and steal drugs rather than pay for them, said the Chief. Police found significant amounts of narcotics with known associates of Mr. Morrison, said the Chief.
The police have a person of interest in this case, but they are not yet ready to make an arrest. “At some point we will need additional information to be forthcoming – a couple more pieces of information,” the Chief explained. “We will eventually get them.” The case highlights the risks people take when engaging in the trafficking of drugs, said the Chief. “Going to jail is the most positive outcome,” he said.
Dec. 19, 2009, Demarcus Curtis, 1900 Block of Emerson Street
Demarcus Curtis, 18, was shot in the knee and buttocks while standing on his front porch in the 1900 block of Emerson Street on Dec. 19, 2009, at about 2:30 a.m. “We had no cooperation from Mr. Curtis,” said Chief Eddington. “If there are other witnesses, they are disinclined to cooperate.” The case has gone nowhere, though gang activity is suspected, said the Chief.
Mr. Curtis is currently incarcerated in Cook County jail, charged with robbery and awaiting trial in connection with the armed robbery of a convenience store at Church Street and Dodge Avenue. “The intersection between gang affiliation, crimes committed and victimization continues to be a significant theme of the story of crime in Evanston,” wrote Chief Eddington in an e-mail.
Aug. 30, 2009, Helder Torres, 1700 Block of Grey Avenue
On Aug. 30, 2009, at about 12:20 a.m., a 21 year old Chicago man was fatally shot in the 1700 block of Grey Avenue. “As near as we can determine,” said Chief Eddington, “Mr. Torres was attending a party on Grey Avenue.” He had no known conflicts with anyone in the neighborhood or at the party. He was simply a visitor who probably received an invitation and decided to go to the party. At some point, several of the partygoers decided to leave the party to go get more beer, ice and chips. Mr. Torres was the last of the group to climb into an SUV, and when he did he was shot twice in the back with a small caliber firearm. One of the bullets entered his heart, killing him.
Chief Eddington describes this as a complex case because there are no interpersonal conflicts, no drug overtones, and no known gang affiliation issues. “We will eventually charge someone with this,” Chief Eddington said.