Four Charged in Fatal Beating of Chicago Teen
CHICAGO - Darnell Myles didn't have to see the video airing on TV of Derrion Albert's slaying to find out that the neighborhood around Christian Fenger Academy High School is dangerous. Two of his children attend the school where Albert was an honor student, and they have long been "scared for their safety," he said.
On Monday, Myles drove his children, a freshman and a senior, to the far South Side school and parked outside until classes ended so he could take them home. One of his children knew Albert and saw the attack. "It was one side of town against another," he said. "It's a crazy thing."
Albert, 16, was walking home from school Thursday when he was beaten to death in a fight between two rival groups outside a community center. Four teens were charged Monday in the slaying. Police identified them with the help of the cellphone video taken by an unidentified witness. The video was provided to a TV station and given to police.
In court Monday, prosecutors described the alleged attack on Albert by Silvonus Shannon, 19; Eric Carson, 16; and Eugene Riley, 18. Carson, who is charged as an adult, and Shannon are Fenger students. The three are being held without bond on charges of first-degree murder. A hearing is set for Oct. 19. Late Monday, Chicago police said a 17-year-old also was charged in the slaying. Prosecutors did not say Monday whether he will be tried as an adult.
The brawl was precipitated by a shooting outside the school on Thursday morning, prosecutors said. A 15-year-old boy was arrested after police alleged he opened fire from his bicycle on a 17-year-old boy, who was not hurt. That incident stemmed from tensions between students who live in Altgeld Gardens, a public housing project, and others who live in an area known as the "Ville."
Albert was "a bystander" to a fight later Thursday between the groups and didn't belong to either, Assistant Cook County State's Attorney Jodi Peterson said in court. Carson and another person from the Ville approached him, she said. Carson hit Albert in the head with a railroad tie. The other person punched him in the face, prosecutors say. Albert fell, unconscious, prosecutors said, and when he regained consciousness, he moved away and tried to stand. He was surrounded by five Altgeld Gardens residents. Riley hit him with a railroad tie and Shannon stomped on his head, Peterson said.
Shannon gave a videotaped confession, said Andy Conklin, a spokesman for the state's attorney's office.
Like the murders in October 2008 of three relatives of actress Jennifer Hudson, the Albert case is reviving concern about violence in Chicago and debate about ways to stop it.
There were 307 homicides in the city from Jan. 1 through the end of August, down from 338 in the same period last year, the Chicago Police Department says. More than half of this year's homicides involved gangs.
"Misguided youth need leadership in their life. This is learned behavior," said Tio Hardiman of CeaseFire Illinois, an anti-violence group. "You can put all the police in the world in the city, but that's not enough," he said. CeaseFire intervenes in conflicts and negotiates treaties between rival groups, he said, and is working to prevent a violent reaction to Albert's slaying. Dwayne Overstreet, a minister, went to Fenger to pray for peace. "It's not that these young people don't understand the value of life," he said. "They haven't been taught the value of life."
Overstreet says Albert's death was a reminder of the "chaos" and disregard for life across the city. "It feels sometimes like you're in a war zone," he said.
"I'm praying and hoping that out of this will come something positive," said Martin Watt, a minister from suburban Harvey who came to Fenger to lead a hymn that intoned: I'm feeling so much better since I lay my burden down.
Community leaders held a news conference Monday asking anyone with information to come forward. Albert's relatives were there, wearing T-shirts with his photo and the words: "Gone too soon, too young."