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Family of woman killed near Ohio Street tunnel never told man briefly was charged

Raven Lemons’ family says that, before being contacted by a Sun-Times reporter, they didn’t know anyone ever had been charged in her death. But that case was dropped in the face of a broader, federal case involving the Four Corner Hustlers street gang. | Provided photo

Raven Lemons, an innocent victim shot dead last year near the Ohio Street pedestrian tunnel under Lake Shore Drive, was a kind soul who gave everyone she met the benefit of the doubt.

“She was openhearted to everybody,” her father says. “She gave everybody a chance.”

On June 17, 2017, Lemons was celebrating her birthday with friends at her father’s home on the West Side. After her father went to bed, friends asked Lemons to head downtown with them.

Lemons, a 25-year-old mother who was a graduate of Marshall High School, would be dead before sunrise, killed by a bullet intended for someone else.

Her father says Lemons knew the man the police identified as the shooter. They were friends.

Two months after her death, Keith Chatman, 30, was charged with aggravated discharge of a firearm and being an armed habitual criminal, police records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times show.

The police said he was charged “after being positively identified as the individual that shot and killed Raven Lemons.”

But those charges were dropped in January, records show. That was after Chatman and 10 other reputed members of the Four Corner Hustlers — including leader Labar “Bro Man” Spann — were indicted in a federal racketeering conspiracy case that links the gang to six killings.

The federal trial is set to begin in September 2019.

Lemons’ family says that, before being contacted by a Sun-Times reporter, they didn’t know anyone ever was charged in her death.

Keith Chatman. | Chicago Police Department
Keith Chatman. | Chicago Police Department

“I’m angry, and the rest of my family’s angry,” says Lemons’ father, Layfara Lemons. “It’s heartbreaking because nothing’s going to bring her back. And it seems like nothing really is going to be done for it.”

The Cook County state’s attorney’s office says the charges against Chatman in Lemons’ death were dropped after the federal indictment.

It‘s unclear, though, whether those charges will be revived after the federal case concludes.

The Chicago Police Department still considers the case “cleared.”

Lemons had a birthday party at her father’s home on June 17, 2017. As it wound down, her father told her he was going to bed. She told him she’d do the same but went downtown instead.

That was the last time Layfara Lemons spoke with his daughter before her death on June 18, 2017 — Father’s Day.

Layfara Lemons says detectives told him his daughter’s death was the result of a fight between two other groups who also were near the pedestrian tunnel by Ohio Street Beach, that someone fired a shot, and Chatman fired back, striking Lemons in the head.

Cook County court records show Chatman had posted bail in another case and was freed from custody weeks before Lemons was killed. On May 21, 2017, Chatman was arrested near Madison and Kilbourn and charged with unlawful use of a weapon by a felon and possession of a controlled substance, records show. Cook County Circuit Judge James Brown set bail at $75,000. He was released on May 24.

Twenty-five days later, police say he killed Lemons.

On June 22, Chatman was ordered held without bail after the charges he faced in the May case were upgraded, records show. Two months later, while still at the Cook County Jail, he was charged in Lemons’ death.

Records show Chatman, 30, had four arrests for various drug and weapons offenses in the 10 years before Lemons was killed. In 2013, he pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance and was sentenced to 3½ years in prison.

According to federal authorities, from the mid-1990s until the September 2017 indictment, the Four Corner Hustlers operated in West Garfield Park and Humboldt Park on the West Side and in the former Leclaire Courts public housing development on the Southwest Side, dealing drugs, robbing rivals and using violence and intimidation to keep their victims and any witnesses from cooperating with law enforcement. The gang used police scanners, conducted surveillance and used rental cars to try to stay clear of police, authorities say.

The Ohio Street pedestrian tunnel near where Raven Lemons was killed. | Sun-Times files
The Ohio Street pedestrian tunnel near where Raven Lemons was killed. | Sun-Times files

Lemons’ family has struggled since her death.

“We’re a close-knit family still, [but] right now the family’s torn,” her father says. “Raven was the one that kept all the family together.

“She helped me take care of my mom, who’s bedridden,” he says.

He says that, since Lemons’ death, her son, now 7, has suffered seizures at school the grandfather believes are a result of him losing a parent.

Lemons’ death drew more attention than most killings in Chicago because it happened along the lakefront in one of the ritziest parts of the city.

After the shooting, the pedestrian tunnel near where she died was ordered closed during overnight hours at the behest of Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd).