Nine-year-old murder victim Tyshawn Lee was lured into a South Side alley and gunned down in a deadly tit-for-tat between rival gangs, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said Thursday.
Flanked by community activists, McCarthy stood at the end of the Gresham alley, where the 9-year-old was shot multiple times Monday, and issued a plea for tips that will lead to an arrest in the child’s death.
“We believe that Tyshawn was targeted, lured to this spot and murdered,” McCarthy said. “We believe that this is the most recent in a series of gang-related, violent events that may go back as far as August and may go back even further than that.”
McCarthy called the slaying “probably the most abhorrent, cowardly, unfathomable crime that I’ve witnessed in 35 years of policing.” Standing alongside the Rev. Michael Pfleger, he said police need help from the community.
The reward in the case stands at $35,000, and Pfleger offered to use his own money to relocate any witness out of state if necessary.
McCarthy singled out Tyshawn’s father, Pierre Stokes, 25, who has been particularly unhelpful in the investigation. He said Stokes has refused to talk to detectives on at least two occasions.
Police executed a pair of search warrants in recent days, including a raid of an apartment in the 8000 block of South Marshfield about midnight Wednesday that was authorized by a warrant listing Stokes as the target.
Stokes arrived at the press conference moments after McCarthy left, and talked for several minutes with police brass who were leaving the press conference. Talking to reporters, Stokes denied involvement in gangs and said he does not have information that would help investigators.
Earlier Thursday, Stokes showed the Chicago Sun-Times a copy of a warrant and showed a reporter the basement apartment where he said SWAT officers stormed in after smashing windows and dropping flash-bang grenades around midnight Wednesday as his girlfriend and several friends had been enjoying a quiet evening of kicking back with pizza and marijuana.
The warrant, signed by a judge at 9:28 p.m. Wednesday, sought “cocaine and any paraphernalia used in the weighing, cutting, mixing and packaging of illegal drugs,” as well documents showing residency and any records detailing drug activity.
Stokes said he doesn’t live in the Marshfield apartment and was at his home about four blocks away when the raid took place. He claims police confiscated several thousand dollars in cash from the five or so people in the apartment, including $2,500 Stokes’ cousin planned to use for rent. Stokes said police did not arrest or ticket anyone in the apartment, despite finding two small bags of marijuana. McCarthy declined to answer questions about the raids.
His cousin, Antonio Lee, lives in the Marshfield apartment and was there during the search.
Stokes said he arrived at the Marshfield apartment as police were leaving. Officers saw him but made no attempt to arrest him or search him, he said. Stokes assumed authorities also would have been aware that he was scheduled to appear at a court hearing Thursday morning on a pending gun case.
“They know where I stay at, so why were they going to that house? They know where to find me. They could have found me at court,” Stokes said. “I’m being harassed. All I want is justice for my son.”
Stokes said investigators and patrol officers have been stopping him and his friends on the street.
“Before my son was killed, [police] didn’t have nothing to do with me,” he said. “Now, they’re telling me to stay in the house or they’re going to lock me up, because they don’t want me outside.”
Stokes’ appearance in court Thursday in connection with an earlier, unrelated charge of being a felon in illegal possession of a firearm was uneventful. No police were present, and the case was postponed because Stokes’ lawyer did not show up.
Tyshawn’s killing has spawned social media traffic in which gang members have been threatening to harm the families of their rivals.
Also on Thursday, police said a “person of interest” in Tyshawn’s killing was released after he turned himself in to investigators Wednesday for questioning, arriving with his attorney, Sam Adam Jr.
Police are concerned Tyshawn’s killing could set off a spree of violence targeting gang members’ innocent relatives — who have been considered off limits in the past.
On Thursday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel was asked whether the Chicago Police Department has a strategy to confront that new and frightening possibility.
The mayor collected himself for a few moments, then used some of the same language he used earlier this week in response to the child’s murder.
“The best way to deal with this is that when, not if — because I believe the Police Department will find who did this — when that person is brought in front of justice, I hope they go to a place that will freeze over and they never see another day of freedom,” Emanuel said, his teeth clenched.
“That child has had their innocence and that child has had their sense of hope stolen from their family and the city of Chicago. And if you want to deal with that, he’ll be in front of a judge and he’ll be in front of Chicago. And I hope the full force of the law and the sense of moral outrage comes down. And that’s how you deal with it.”
The mayor added, “This is not for the Police Department alone. It is for every person who has a common sense of decency. There’s more than the law and there’s more than the Police Department here. And that is how you deal with it.”
Contributing: Fran Spielman