A child’s life lost to ‘barbarism’ of gang war

SHARE A child’s life lost to ‘barbarism’ of gang war
SHARE A child’s life lost to ‘barbarism’ of gang war

It was, as Chicago’s top cop said in announcing charges last week, “a crime that shook our city … an act of barbarism, the assassination of a 9-year-old child as a gang retaliation to get back at his father.”

And that shock was only heightened as police and prosecutors revealed the final moments of 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee’s short life, in charging Corey Morgan on Friday with first-degree murder in the gut-wrenching case — a man described by Tyshawn’s mother as her friend since childhood.

Police Supt. Garry McCarthy also announced a warrant for first-degree murder had been issued for Kevin Edwards, who is being sought by police in connection with Tyshawn’s slaying.

His past friendship with Tyshawn’s mother apparently didn’t matter to Morgan, 27, of Lansing, according to police, who say he was on a mission to target family members of opposing gang members after his own brother was killed, his mother wounded, in an October shooting.

“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,” says Cook County Asst. State’s Attorney George Canellis.

So on Nov. 2nd, as the grade-schooler played on the swings at Dawes Park at 80th & Damen, Morgan and two other men sat parked in a black SUV, watching, prosecutors say.

Pierre Stokes, Tyshawn Lee’s father wrote “Love You My Boy” at the memorial where his son was killed. Thursday, November 5, 2015. Brian Jackson/ For the Chicago Sun-Times

Pierre Stokes, Tyshawn Lee’s father wrote “Love You My Boy” at the memorial where his son was killed. Thursday, November 5, 2015. Brian Jackson/ For the Chicago Sun-Times

Morgan and the two men eventually stepped out of the black SUV and walked toward the playground, then stood milling around the playground as Tyshawn took a turn on the swings, witnesses tell police.

After some time, they walked back to the SUV, but returned a few minutes later, prosecutors say. That’s when Morgan and one of the men walked off the playground, and the third man walked over to Tyshawn, picked up the basketball the grade-schooler had set down beside the swing set and gave it a few dribbles, before giving it back to Tyshawn, prosecutors say.

Whatever the remaining man said to Tyshawn got the boy to walk off the playground with him, headed in the direction of an alley off 81st Place, prosecutors say. The SUV followed, witnesses say.

Moments later, shots rang out from the alley.

Tyshawn lay dead, struck four times by .40-caliber bullets. Defensive wounds indicate the little boy tried to block the gunshots — one fired from so close that gunpowder scorched his face.

The black SUV was seen speeding away from the alley.

When the SUV was recovered, its global positioning satellite information had been reset, but still showed it had been parked at Dawes Park around the time of Tyshawn’s murder; then at Morgan’s girlfriend’s house immediately afterward.

Tyshawn’s mother, Karla Lee, could barely sit still in court as Canellis gave the chilling account. It was the first time she had heard the details of how investigators believe her son was lured into that alley and executed in alleged retaliation by a man she’d known since childhood.

“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.”

A reward of $50,000 for tips leading to an arrest had been offered in the case, and the charges levied Friday against Morgan and a second man — Kevin Edwards, 22, of Washington Heights, who is still being sought — resulted from information obtained from the community, Chicago police said. A third man was already in custody.

There were “at least three people involved” in Tyshawn’s murder; only one of them pulled the trigger, as shell casings came from one gun, according to Police Supt. Garry McCarthy. So was Morgan the triggerman?

“It depends on who’s speaking — who did what,” McCarthy says. “There were three people, we’re pretty certain, acting in concert — who drove the car, who was on the scene, who pulled the trigger, is all being worked on.”

The murder weapon thus far has not been recovered.

Prosecutors would not say if any of the suspects are cooperating with police.

Morgan, who belonged to a faction of the Black P-Stones gang, was named a “person of interest” shortly after Tyshawn’s murder. Pierre Stokes, Tyshawn’s father, allegedly, belonged to a faction of the rival Gangster Disciples. And when asked if Stokes had been helpful in the investigation, the top cop says, “Not at all. Not at all.”

The two gangs had been in a back-and-forth battle that had already claimed two murders and two non-fatal shootings, before Tyshawn was targeted, and the feud apparently boiled over after an October incident outside a South Side church left Morgan’s brother dead and his mother wounded.

Morgan had turned himself in for questioning just days after the killing, and was released. Under police surveillance, he was seen leaving a Palos Hills hotel last week with a friend — Dwight Boone-Doty, who police say had 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, recovering Doty’s gun and another .40-caliber gun in a duffel bag Morgan had been carrying outside the hotel. Neither weapon was the one used to execute Tyshawn.

Both men had prior felony convictions barring them from possessing firearms.

Morgan, ordered held on $1 million bond, posted a $100,000 bail within 48 hours, and was released. Boone-Doty, however, remains in custody. McCarthy would not say if Boone-Doty is the third suspect in Tyshawn’s death, but he did say a second suspect is in custody.

Cook County Criminal Court Judge Peggy Chiampas seemed to channel the outrage of an entire city when she ordered Morgan be held without bond.

“(Morgan) went hunting every day with firearms, in retaliation, looking and stating … you were going to kill grandmothers, mothers, kids and all,” she said, glaring at Morgan. “This was a predator grabbing his prey and luring a child into an alley … executed by a close-range gunshot wound. No bond!”

McCarthy, who called Tyshawn’s execution the most heinous crime he’d seen in more than three decades of policing, is pledging to “obliterate” the P-Stones faction behind the boy’s killing. “That gang just signed its own death warrant. They are going to be obliterated,” McCarthy says.

Still, in court records the case appears to be circumstantial, and Morgan’s lawyer insists his client has nothing to do with the killing.

“Corey Morgan absolutely denies any involvement in Tyshawn Lee’s murder,” said Jonathan Brayman, who is representing Morgan, along with legendary attorney Thomas Breen. Brayman stressed that after Morgan emerged as a “person of interest,” Morgan was placed in multiple police line-ups and apparently was not identified as the killer.

McCarthy, who called Tyshawn’s execution the most heinous crime he’d seen in more than three decades of policing, is pledging to wipe out the P-Stones faction behind the boy’s killing.

“That gang just signed its own death warrant,” McCarthy said. “They are going to be obliterated.”

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