Cook County prosecutors on Friday gave a chilling account of the final hours of 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee’s short life, outlining their case against a man they say targeted the boy for death amid a murderous cycle of retaliation between rival gangs.
As the grade-schooler played on the swings at Dawes Park on Nov. 2, Corey Morgan sat parked in a black SUV with two other men, watching, Assistant State’s Attorney George Canellis said at Morgan’s bond hearing on a charge of first-degree murder.
Tyshawn’s mother, Karla Lee, bounced anxiously in her seat in the courtroom gallery as Canellis read off the evidence against Morgan, 27.
Tyshawn’s Lee mother,
Karla Lee, speaks to the press with community activist Andrew Holmes after a man was ordered held without bail in the boy’s murder / Andy Grimm
Morgan, she would say outside the courtroom, was a childhood friend, and Friday was the first time had heard the details of how investigators believe her son was lured into an alley and shot.
“It almost seems unreal, especially from (Morgan),” she said. “I can’t believe it. It’s just like: ‘You’re the same boy I grew up with, talked with, played with went to the park and stuff?’ That’s the same one killed my baby.”
Morgan had been a “person of interest” in Tyshawn’s murder since shortly after the boy was killed, the latest slaying in a back-and-forth battle between Morgan’s faction of the Black P-Stones gang, and the rival Gangster Disciple faction to which Tyshawn’s father allegedly belongs.
The feud apparently “boiled over” after Morgan’s brother was killed, and his mother wounded in an October shooting outside a South Side church.
“Shortly after the shooting (Morgan) stated that since his brother was killed and his mama was shot, he was going to kill grandmas, mamas, kids and all,” Canellis said.
At Morgan’s bond hearing, Judge Peggy Chiampas, known for her fiery demeanor on the bench, seemed to channel the outrage of a city shocked by the brazen killing of a child.
Tyshawn, who had defensive wounds as if he tried to block one of the gun shots, was a “poor little 9-year-old standing in the middle of a gang war,” prosecutors said.
“(Morgan) went hunting every day with firearms, in retaliation, looking and stating—you specifically—you were going to kill grandmothers, mothers, kids and all,” Chiampas said, glaring at Morgan, who stood stock-still a few feet in front of her.
“This was a predator grabbing his prey and luring a child into an alley…executed by a close-range gunshot wound.”
Chiampas ordered Morgan held without bail—shouting as she said “no bond!”
Corey Morgan | Police mug shot
Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy had called the shooting the most heinous crime he’d seen in more than three decades of policing, and pledged Friday to “obliterate” the P-Stones faction behind Tyshawn’s killing.
“They are going to be obliterated,” he said. “That gang just signed its own death warrant.”
When asked if Tyshawn’s dad was helpful in the investigation, the top cop said, “Not at all. Not at all.”
Witnesses said they saw Morgan and two other men step out of a black SUV and walk toward the play lot at Dawes Park the afternoon of Nov. 2, and that they milled around the playground as Tyshawn took a turn on the swings, Canellis said.
The three men walked back to the SUV, then returned a few minutes later, prosecutors said. Morgan and one of the men walked off. The man who remained walked over and picked up the basketball Tyshawn had set down beside the swing set and gave it a few dribbles. He then gave the ball back to Tyshawn, then walked off with him in the direction of an alley off 81st Place, prosecutors said.
The SUV followed.
Moments later, shots rang out from the alley, and Tyshawn lay dead, struck four times by .40-caliber bullets—one fired from so close, gunpowder scorched the boy’s face. The black SUV was seen speeding away from the alley.
Morgan had turned himself in for questioning just days after the killing and was released.
He apparently was under police surveillance last week when he left a Palos Hills hotel with a friend, Dwight Boone-Doty, who police say had a a .40 caliber pistol peeking out from his waistband as he got into a car with Morgan.
Police pulled the car over a few blocks away in Evergreen Park, and found Doty’s gun and another .40-caliber in a duffel bag Morgan had been carrying outside the hotel.
Both men have prior felony convictions that bar them from possessing firearms, though police said neither weapon matched the one used to kill Tyshawn.
Morgan had posted $100,000 bond within 48 hours of his arrest last week. Doty remains in custody.
Police are seeking a third man, Kevin Edwards, in connection with Tyshawn’s murder.
McCarthy declined to say whether Doty was one of the three suspects in the boy’s shooting, though he did say a third suspect was in custody.
Asked by reporters if Morgan was the trigger man, Canellis said charging documents mentioned two “uncharged co-defendants” but did not specify which one was the shooter.
Police have announced a reward of $50,000 for tips leading to an arrest, and said Friday that the charges against Morgan and Edwards were a result of information from the community.
Still, in court records the case appears to be circumstantial.
Canellis would not say if any of the suspects had cooperated with police, and evidence offered at the bond hearing describes witnesses who saw Morgan at the park with Tyshawn and the black SUV that followed Morgan and Tyshawn in the alley.
Global positioning satellite information on the SUV had been reset, but still showed that the SUV had been parked at Dawes Park around the time of Tyshawn’s murder, and at Morgan’s girlfriend’s house immediately afterward.
Outside the courtroom, Morgan’s lawyer said his client had nothing to do with the killing.
“Corey Morgan absolutely denies any involvement in Tyshawn Lee’s murder,” said lawyer Jonathan Brayman, who said he is representing Morgan along with legendary attorney Thomas Breen.
After he emerged as a “person of interest” Morgan was placed in multiple police lineups and apparently was not identified as the killer, Brayman said.
“It’s my understanding that he was subject to some lineups, and he was released,” Brayman said.