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Man charged in fatal shooting outside Congress Hotel during birthday celebration

Police investigate a fatal shooting early Monday outside the Congress Plaza Hotel. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

A Brainerd neighborhood man with no criminal history has been charged with killing two men and wounding two others in a shooting early Monday in the Loop.

Marquis Watkins, 39, faces two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder, according to the Cook County states attorney’s office.

Watkins appeared for a hearing on the charges Wednesday afternoon at the Leighton Criminal Court Building before Judge Michael Clancy, who ordered Watkins held without bail. Dressed in light blue medical pants and a brown T-shirt, Watkins hung his head during the hearing.

Marquis D. Watkins | Cook County sheriff’s office
Marquis D. Watkins | Cook County sheriff’s office

The shooting happened just after midnight as Watkins and the four other men were traveling south in a 2015 Chrysler 300 in the 500 block of South Michigan Avenue, according to authorities.

“Something happened inside the vehicle — we’re not sure what yet — causing shots to be fired inside the vehicle,” Chicago police spokesman Al Stinites said shortly after the shooting.

Chicago police investigate a scene where four people were shot Monday morning in the 500 block of South Michigan Avenue. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times
Chicago police investigate a scene where four people were shot Monday morning in the 500 block of South Michigan Avenue. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

The men were out to celebrate the birthday of 29-year-old Bruce Miller and were driving around when Watkins began firing, Assistant State’s Attorney Jamie Santini said in court Wednesday.

A motive for the shooting was not given.

One of the men who was wounded but survived told investigators that he was sitting in the right-rear passenger seat and looking at his phone when he heard a gunshot, Santini said. He then turned to see muzzle flashes and Watkins holding a gun. That passenger and the driver of the Chrysler, both 29, are the half-brothers of Watkins. Each suffered a gunshot wound to the shoulder and both were treated at a hospital.

The Chrysler crashed into a planter box after jumping a curb and came to rest upside down, Santini said. The right-rear seat passenger and Watkins crawled from the car and the passenger ran to the nearby Congress Hotel for help.

Miller had been sitting in the front passenger seat and was shot twice in the head, Santini said. Steve Nixon, 31, had been sitting beside Watkins in the rear-center passenger seat when a bullet entered his left cheek and exited the right side of his head. Both were taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital and pronounced dead, authorities said.

Video by Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Watkins was the only man in the car not to suffer a gunshot wound, Santini said. Surveillance video in the area showed no one firing from another vehicle or from the street, and the vehicle sustained no exterior bullet damage.

A .9mm Glock 17 handgun was found by responding officers on the street near the car, Santini said. Watkins also allegedly made a videotaped statement to investigators that he had fired a gun inside the vehicle.

Watkins, who is married, has three children and owns his home on the South Side, has never been convicted of a crime, his defense attorney said in court.

Judge Clancy said he found Watkins to be a danger to the community and ordered him held without bail. His next court date was set for Oct. 22.