Praise and criticism in Fenger brawl case
Police superintendent thanks witnesses against teen charged in beating, says they should have stepped up sooner
By Kristen Mack and Serena Maria Daniels
November 7, 2009
Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis praised witnesses who identified a 14-year-old boy as taking part in the infamous fatal beating of a Fenger High School student but at the same time chastised them for taking too long to come forward.
The teen was charged with murder after four eyewitnesses to the Sept. 24 melee said he hit Derrion Albert, 16, with a "roundhouse punch," Cook County prosecutors said.
Eugene Bailey, 18, originally was charged with throwing that punch, but murder charges against him were dropped three weeks later.
"We started getting reports that (Bailey) was not involved in it," Weis said Friday at a news conference announcing the charges against the 14-year-old. " ...We had numerous witnesses come forward that not only exonerated (Bailey) but also led us to be able to charge (the juvenile)."
Clearly frustrated at what he called a "code of silence," Weis thanked the community for coming forward but quickly added: "I do wish they would have come forward sooner, but at the end of the day, justice will be served."
Albert was attempting to stand up after he was struck with a wooden plank by another youth when the 14-year-old punched Albert "in the face, knocking him to the ground and knocking him unconscious for a brief period of time," Assistant State's Attorney Thomas Bilyk said in Juvenile Court.
Albert was not exhibiting "any acts of aggression when the minor took a long-wielding punch," Bilyk said. "He gave no care or concern to the life (he was) snuffing out."
The boy was ordered held in custody on three counts of first-degree murder and one count of mob action by Juvenile Court Judge Colleen Sheehan.
The boy, who is not being identified by the Tribune because he is a minor, has no previous criminal history, prosecutors said. His mother took notes as the prosecutor laid out the charges, and his family and attorney declined to talk after the hearing.
Though police continue to look for three suspects, Weis said that the 14-year-old's arrest means "the main offenders who struck the critical blows to Derrion Albert are now awaiting trial."
Silvonus Shannon, 19; Eugene Riley, 18; and Eric Carson, 16; were charged as adults and have been held without bail in Cook County Jail since September.
Prosecutors have not determined whether they will charge the juvenile as an adult, Bilyk said. They can use their discretion when deciding whether to charge 13- or 14-year-olds as adults.
The boy, who was a student at Fenger at the time of the beating, has been attending Thornridge High School in Dolton since the brawl, his attorney Richard Kloak said. Kloak asked that the juvenile be released on electronic monitoring so he can stay in school.
"The defendant is not running anywhere or going anywhere," Kloak said.
The melee, which involved more than 50 teenagers, stemmed from a long-standing rivalry between Fenger students who live in an area known as "the Ville" near the school in Roseland and those who are bused in from the Altgeld Gardens public housing complex.
Fighting broke out as the Altgeld students walked to a bus stop near a Far South Side community center about half a mile away from Fenger.
Video footage of Albert's beating circulated over the Web and transfixed viewers nationwide. The images also horrified Chicagoans, many of whom had become numb to the high rate of teen carnage.
Albert's death prompted the White House to dispatch U.S. Attorney Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan to Chicago to talk about youth violence.
Tribune reporter Jeremy Gorner contributed to this report.
In raising my children, I haven't often had to live up to what I promised them I wouldn't do should they find themselves in police custody because of their negative behavior. My children always knew that I had taught them to think. Therefore they were also aware that they couldn't call the house and tell me they were in police custody because "they didn't think stealing from the store would get them in jail; or that hitting someone upside the head and killing them would get them in jail." So its quite sickening to read the above story and see that the mama is sitting in court taking notes after taking her child out of Fenger and hiding him in the public school system out in Dalton.
Every taxpaying resident of Dalton should be insulted that their community became the public hideout for the "accused" murderer. Rather than take her son to the police and turn him in, she took him to another black community where he could have done the same to another child. Sick. Had she spend the time talking to her son about the consequences of his actions from the time he could walk and talk, then she wouldn't now be furiously taking notes to prevent the KILLER from going to jail for the rest of his life. There are some mistakes where the costs has to be weighed prior to the actions being taken. Her son could have went home. OR ASKED TO BE TRANSFERRED TO DALTON BECAUSE FENGER WAS TOO NEGATIVE OF AN ENVIRONMENT FOR HIM. No type of pro-action was taken. Rather the mother took "reactionary" actions. And where is DADDY??????
Women need to take and make better decisions regarding the men they opt to have children with. And if you make a poor decision like I did in choosing the sperm donor, then raise your children so damn good that you never have to be the only one in court taking notes.
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