Wesley A. Woodson III, 20, was charged on Sept. 28 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. 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 Avenue, a short distance from where the shooting occurred.
Cmdr. 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, Cmdr. Parrott said Mr. Woodson was seen in the act of shooting.
Cmdr. 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. This fight was unrelated to the subsequent shooting of Dajae, said the Commander.
After the party broke up, approximately 150 teenagers began walking east on Church Street toward Evanston Township High School, said the Commander. Several groups began fighting. One person involved in the altercation and who was a cousin of Mr. Woodson called Mr. Woodson and said he was jumped and hiding near the football field by the high school, the Commander told the RoundTable. The Commander said he heard that several people from Mr. Woodson’s household went to pick up the cousin.
“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 Cmdr. Parrott. “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 that allegedly jumped his cousin.
“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. He was found not guilty of the gun charges in July. 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.
Cmdr. Parrott told the RoundTable that police received calls about the altercation on Church Street and a report that shots were fired a few minutes before Dajae was shot. He said police “were all over the area,” and that one officer reported seeing a flash that may have been from the muzzle of Mr. Woodson’s gun. “That’s how close police were,” he said.
There are no charges planned for the cousin who made the call to Mr. Woodson, the Commander said.
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,” he said. “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.
Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, said, “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,” she said, “but more needs to be done. And will be done.”
The Mayor hosted a community meeting on Oct. 2 seeking solutions to address violence in Evanston. (See article on page 1.)
Funeral services for Dajae were held on Sept. 29 at First Church of God Christian Life Center. More than 1,000 people are estimated to have attended the service.
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.