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Man sentenced to 35 years for murder of 311 operator near CPD headquarters

Javion Harris was 16 when he opened fire on South State Street, outside a Starbucks blocks from Chicago Police Headquarters, killing Yvonne Nelson and wounding a 19-year-old man.

Juanita and Dionne Nelson talk to reporters at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse on Thursday, June 20, 2109, after a Cook County judge handed down a 35-year prison sentence to Javion Harris for the murder of the Nelsons’ sister, Yvonne Nelson. Yvonne Nelson, a 49-year-old 311 operator, was killed in May of 2016 by a stray bullet fired by Harris, striking her in the chest as she walked out of a Starbucks on South State Street, just blocks from Chicago Police headquarters.
Andy Grimm for the Sun-Times

An 18-year-old man was sentenced to 35 years in prison Thursday for the murder of a 311 operator near the Chicago Police headquarters on the South Side.

Javion Harris was 15 on the May 2016 afternoon when he began firing shots at another man near a busy intersection of South State Street. Harris shot a 19-year-old man, and struck and killed 49-year-old Yvonne Nelson as she walked out of a Starbucks.

Harris was convicted of murder and attempted murder at a jury trial in December.

Cook County Judge Maura Slattery Boyle mostly waved off arguments from Harris’ lawyer asking for a light sentence because of his young age at the time of the shooting and the way Harris had thrived at the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.

Slattery Boyle said the sentence reflected the pain caused by the death of a “completely innocent” woman in Nelson, and the danger posed to other bystanders when Harris opened fire near the Illinois Institute of Technology, De La Salle Institute and the police department.

“(This was) a Friday afternoon. Broad daylight. A university right there, a high school right there, police headquarters,” Slattery Boyle said, describing the deadly shooting. “(Harris was) running down the street discharging a handgun and killing a woman getting a cup of coffee, just going about her day.”

Harris, who had initially been charged in juvenile court, showed little reaction as the judge handed down the sentence. He looked over his shoulder and smiled to family members in the courtroom gallery as he was led out of the courtroom.

As they left the courthouse, Nelson’s younger sisters, Juanita and Dionne Nelson said they were happy with the sentence. Juanita Nelson has a son the same age as Harris, she said.

“So, as a parent, I can relate to the immaturity of a 15-year-old, but as a human being, I also believe that 15-year-olds are aware,” she said, adding that she hoped the 35-year sentence might serve as a lesson to Harris’ friends.

The sisters wore matching necklaces with a charm bearing Yvonne Harris’ nickname, “Rudy” — jewelry they wore to court dates, as well as on their late sister’s birthday, the anniversary of her death and at events hosted by the charitable foundation they formed in her honor.

The YAN Foundation— the name is Yvonne Nelson’s initials— and has multiple fundraisers each year, and last year awarded its first college scholarship. While the foundation is focused on anti-violence, scholarship recipients needn’t have perfect backgrounds, Juanita Nelson said.

“We like to help kids who have made mistakes,” she said.