Chicago Police SWAT Team officer David Blake was murdered by the troubled teenage brother of his girlfriend in a quiet South Side neighborhood, Cook County prosecutors said Tuesday at the start of the trial of Bernard Williams.
The trial begins seven years after Williams, then 18, was arrested for Blake’s murder, a killing that prosecutors said was the first step in a plan to raid Blake’s gun safe and sell the weapons on the street.
“This was a cold-blooded execution at the hands of this man right here, the younger brother of (Blake’s) new girlfriend,” Assistant State’s Attorney Patrick Morley told jurors during his opening statement, pointing at the slight-framed, bespectacled Williams seated beside his lawyers.
“From the moment this defendant laid eyes on (his) gun collection, he was obsessed with this ill-conceived plan to get his hands on those guns, whether it meant robbing the victim or whether it meant killing the victim.”
Williams’ family and a handful of CPD officers sat in the cramped courtroom gallery, staring intently into the courtroom even as they sat wedged among a largely disinterested group of teenagers touring the Leighton Criminal Courthouse for a high school sociology class.
Williams, now 25, was arrested nearly a month after Blake was found dead in the driver’s seat of his Dodge Durango, which parked on a secluded side street among the bungalows in the Wrightwood neighborhood.
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Assistant Public Defender Dylan Barrett said police ignored other leads and fixated on Williams as a suspect as the pressure mounted for them to make an arrest. Unmentioned by either side was the fact that Blake was one of five CPD officers who was murdered in 2010.
“As the weeks went by and the days went by, and they could not find the suspect, could not find someone to arrest, they stopped following the trails,” Barrett said. “They charged and arrested the wrong man because of the pressure they felt to solve the case.”
Police have said that Blake showed the contents of his gun safe to Williams on a tour of his house, and that the 45-year-old officer had tried to take the short, small-framed high school dropout under his wing.
The night of the murder, Williams called Blake to ask for a ride, and directed him to the 2900 block of West Seipp. Police have previously said that Williams went into a house nearby, and returned to the SUV with a gun, then shot Blake six times in the face.
Morley said Williams took Blake’s keys, intending to clean out Blake’s gun safe. Morley said police had swarmed Blake’s house before Willia ms got there, but the then-teenager still bragged about his aborted plan to friends, and eventually made incriminating statements to police.
Williams’ sister, Keana Bayliss, had initially cooperated with police in the investigation, but appeared to have had a change of heart by the time the trial began.
Bayliss, in a suit jacket, was dressed for court Tuesday and, like other potential witnesses, was led out of the courtroom before testimony began. But Bayliss had come to court with a lawyer, who said she might assert her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination in response at least some questions.
Williams sat impassive in his seat during the testimony, looking on as prosecutors posted photographs from the crime scene, showing Blake’s bloodied body in the SUV and autopsy photos showing a tight cluster of six bullet holes spread across his right temple and cheek.
Barrett said there was no physical evidence tying Williams to the murder.
Police Officer Darryl Browning, who lived a few houses down from the crime scene, testified Tuesday he heard gunshots the night of Nov. 22, 2010, and looked out his window and saw Blake’s SUV with the headlights on, and a black man in a puffy coat and skull cap running down an alley.
Browning, who was on disability at the time, said he called 911 because he was wearing shorts and had no shoes on.
During cross examination by Assistant Public Defender Crystal Carbellos, Browning said he did not know whether the man he saw running had anything to do with the shooting.
Testimony was set to resume Wednesday morning before Judge Lawrence Flood.