T.J. started calling himself Batman. After he won millions of dollars in his wrongful conviction lawsuit, T.J. spent the money like it was something to get rid of. He bought a fleet of expensive cars, flipped young guys in rival territory on the West Side and created a new crew. It kicked off a violent gang war.
Motive extra features
Get a look at the real-life people and places covered in this episode of “Motive.” Meet T.J., his mother Victoria and the family members, friends and lawyers who tell his story.
Owen “Oskeeno” Spears
Spears switched to T.J.’s gang, the Simon City Royals. An aspiring rapper, he wrote an anthem for the Royals. Spears was shot to death on Oct. 27, 2014 at the age of 22. Police suspect a rival gang was responsible, although no one was charged.
Tyris Ferguson, 23, a member of T.J.’s crew, was killed on Nov. 19, 2014 on the West Side. The Pontiac Grand Prix he was in was riddled with bullets — at least 27. The gang war between the Simon City Royals and their rivals was mounting.
Divonte Hall, now 23, flipped from the Traveling Vice Lords to the Simon City Royals and got his face tattooed with a cross, a symbol of the Royals. He’s now in state prison for armed robbery.
T.J.’s sentencing hearing
This is a transcript of the sentencing hearing for T.J. in federal court on March 9, 2017. He got more than nine years in prison for possession of a handgun he used to shoot Earl Casteel in the legs in 2015 on the Northwest Side. Starting on page 34, the prosecutor talks about the damage T.J.’s crew did.
This photo shows Tyrell Thomas (in red cap), a member of T.J.’s crew, holding a submachine-gun in his left hand before he robbed a convenience store on the West Side in 2015. Thomas was sentenced to 108 months in federal prison for possession of the gun he used in the holdup.
T.J. before he shoots Earl Casteel
T.J. rolled up to Earl Casteel on Aug. 17, 2015 and shot him in both legs. T.J. was driving a Mercedes convertible, which he crashed after a short police chase on the Northwest Side. The police recovered T.J.’s friend’s cell phone, which had a video of the shooting.