Police received more than 40 weapons in the gun buy-back on Dec. 15. Photo courtesy of City of Evanston

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There have been three shootings in Evanston since Nov. 29, two of which resulted in fatalities. Police have a “person of interest” in two of the shootings, and have not yet focused on a specific individual in the third shooting, Police Chief Richard Eddington told the RoundTable in an interview on Dec. 14.

The Shooting of Justin Murray

On Nov. 29 at approximately 6:15 p.m., Justin Murray, 19, was shot and killed in the 1800 block of Brown Avenue. He was standing in front of his grandmother’s home with several people when he was shot. Chief Eddington said he was reluctant to reveal the identity of the people standing with Justin, saying, “At this point in time, I am not sure who the intended target was.”

Justin was “definitely not” the target of the Nov. 29 shooting, Carolyn Murray, Justin’s mother, told the RoundTable. She said a black car had driven past her mother’s house, and then it came back and shots were fired.  Justin was not in front of the house when the car drove by the first time she said, so he could not have been the target.

“What they were planning to do that night, whether they were planning to shoot at my mother’s house or whether they were planning to shoot at some of the people who were gathered in front of my mother’s house, that’s what remains unsolved right now,” said Ms. Murray.

Ms. Murray said, “Justin had a very good heart. He was very giving of himself.” She said after graduating from Evanston Township High School in 2011, he had moved to California and had recently selected a school to attend. He planned to work as a barber to pay his way through school. He had returned home for a visit, just four hours before he was shot.

Several months before the shooting, Ms. Murray proposed the gun buy-back program that took place on Dec. 15. (See article on page 22.) She said Justin supported the program.

Chief Eddington said he thought that the shooting in the 1800 block of Brown Avenue that resulted in Justin’s death was related to an ongoing dispute between small groups of young men in Evanston who have familial ties or are their friends or associates. He said he based his belief in part on an incident that occurred shortly afterward. An hour after Justin was shot, police received a call of shots fired about six blocks away from the 1800 block of Brown Avenue. “A car was struck by several rounds of gunfire and the owners of the car who were probably in it and others, instead of calling the police, called a tow truck to move the car away,” said the Chief. When police arrived on the scene, the tow truck was already there, he said.

Chief Eddington said he believes someone on the scene where Justin was shot had an idea or made an assumption about who the shooter was and “retaliated shortly thereafter.”

The Chief told the RoundTable the police have a “person of interest” in the shooting of Justin, but the person was not in custody.

The Dec. 8 Shooting

On Dec. 8, at approximately 1:50 a.m., a 20-year-old Evanston man was shot multiple times as he exited a vehicle in the 1900 block of Howard Street. The victim “appears to have been specifically targeted by two offenders,” said Commander Jay Parrott of the Evanston Police Department in a prepared statement on Dec. 8. The victim, in critical condition, was transported to St. Francis Hospital.

Chief Eddington told the RoundTable on Dec. 14 that the young man was still in critical condition and that there was significant evidence leading the police to believe the shooting was in retaliation for the shooting that resulted in Justin Murray’s death. He said police have a “person of interest” for the Dec. 8 shooting, who is not in custody.

The Chief declined to identify the man who was shot on Dec. 8.

Through other sources the RoundTable has learned the identity of the man who was shot. According to police, that man was shot earlier this year and refused to cooperate in the police investigation.

The Shooting of Javar Bamberg

On Dec. 12 at approximately 2 a.m., Evanston Police responded to a call of shots fired in the 1800 block of Hovland Court, said Cmdr. Parrott in a prepared statement. Police located a gunshot victim, Javar Bamberg, 23, in the rear alley of the 1700 block of Grey Avenue. He had been shot in the head and was dead on the scene, said the Commander. 

Chief Eddington said police are still investigating whether the shooting is related to an ongoing dispute between small groups of young men in Evanston. He added, though, “Once again, the investigation is open. Our NORTAF partners are here helping us. That seems to be a viable explanation. We have some evidence suggesting that. However, that does not exclude us from pursuing all leads. There was substantial evidence recovered at the scene that will be a factor in the final outcome of this investigation.

 “We are not focused on a specific individual at this time,” he said.

Cooperating Witnesses

“The Evanston Police Department has increased its presence in the neighborhoods surrounding these recent incidents to reduce the concerns of safety from the general public,” said Cmdr. Parrott.

While police have gathered a significant amount of evidence, Chief Eddington said some witnesses are not cooperating because of the “no-snitch rule” or because of family ties. He asked people to come forward if they have information. “Be a witness,” he said. “Be willing to come forward to the police department with information. Let us decide if what you have to say is important.

 “I have confidence in our investigation and the NORTAF investigation to bring these cases to a solution,” he said.

 In a letter sent to the community last week, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said, “I have every confidence that Police Chief Eddington and members of the Evanston Police Department are doing what is required to end this period of violence and to keep all of us in Evanston safe.” She added, “We must work together 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.”

The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently struck down an Illinois law that made it unlawful to carry a gun in a vehicle or to carry a concealed weapon, with some exceptions. The decision, if upheld, will make it much more difficult for municipalities to ban the carrying of loaded guns outside the home.

Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...