Vandetta Redwood found herself alone in a Chicago police lockup in April 2014, the day a teenage feud ended with a street brawl — and the fatal shooting of 14-year-old Endia Martin.
Redwood, then 32, had been in the middle of the melee in the Back of the Yards that day. As her 12-year-old daughter stood by, the feds say Redwood handed a .38 special caliber revolver to her 14-year-old cousin and gave her a simple instruction: “Shoot that bitch.”
Authorities say the 14-year-old girl obeyed, wounding one teenage girl and killing Martin.
Later, alone in the lockup, Redwood allegedly told herself, “I’m not going to no motherf – – – – – – jail.” And for nearly two years, she kept that promise to herself. She escaped criminal charges over Martin’s death. But that changed in February, when a federal grand jury indicted Redwood for putting the murder weapon in the hands of a child, and for carrying it within 1,000 feet of a school.
Now, Redwood faces as many as 15 years in prison if convicted at a trial starting Monday at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse. When she learned last winter how long she could wind up behind bars, Redwood broke down in court.
“They f – – – – – – lied on me,” Redwood declared as she was dragged from the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve in February. “I swear to God. I didn’t do this. I didn’t do this. They f – – – – – – lied on me. They lied on me. I didn’t do this. I didn’t do this. They lied on me. They lied on me.”
The charges against Redwood landed days after her other cousin, Donnell Flora, was convicted by a Cook County jury for Martin’s first-degree murder and the attempted murder of Lanekia Reynolds, the other wounded teen. Flora was accused of first handing the gun to the alleged shooter. The feds say the teen then handed it to Redwood before taking it back.
Redwood took the stand during Flora’s trial and invoked her Fifth Amendment right not to testify. Her attorney has since accused the feds of trying to punish Redwood for that decision. Meanwhile, Flora has been sentenced to 100 years in prison.
The alleged shooter, who is not being named because she was charged as a juvenile, is still awaiting trial. Prosecutors did not include her on a publicly filed witness list. Others are instead expected to take the stand and testify that they saw Redwood hand the teen a “shiny” or “silver” object.
Meanwhile, a cellphone video of the shooting will likely serve as the centerpiece of the prosecutors’ case. Cook County prosecutors tried to use the same video in 2014 to charge Redwood with mob action and obstruction of justice. But Cook County Judge Donald Panarese Jr. tossed those charges after he viewed the video, calling it “choppy” and “poor.”
The feds are expected to play the video in court this week — which could lead to its public release.
Federal prosecutors acknowledge that video of the April 28, 2014, murder does not show Redwood handing the gun to the alleged shooter. Instead, they say it shows Reynolds descending a porch in the 900 block of West Garfield swinging a lock on a chain. Redwood can be seen crossing the screen toward her young cousin, prosecutors said, and later the teen can be seen raising a silver gun and firing.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Nasser said people in the crowd told the alleged shooter to put her gun away and fight fair — without weapons. So Redwood allegedly bumped chests with her young cousin and took the gun. Then, after Reynolds began swinging the lock, Nasser said Redwood handed the Smith & Wesson back to the girl and told her to “shoot that bitch.”
The violence erupted after a feud over a boy between Reynolds and her rival escalated on Facebook. It snowballed into threats, and the two eventually challenged each other to a fight.