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‘Sometimes individuals just do evil things,’ prosecutor tells judge as suspect appears in court for the killing of 71-year-old grandfather

Police say they are looking at other seemingly random shootings to see if they are linked to Alphonso Joyner.

Woom Sing Tse
Family photo

A man accused of gunning down a 71-year-old grandfather in Chinatown appeared in court Thursday as prosecutors said they had no clue why he opened fire, other than “sometimes individuals just do evil things.”

“That’s the situation we have here,” Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said during a bond hearing. “Judge, I can’t give you a motive.”

Alphonso Joyner fired more than 20 times at Woom Sing Tse as he walked down a sidewalk a few blocks from his home Tuesday afternoon, Murphy told Judge Maryam Ahmad.

Ahmad said the “overwhelming” amount of evidence described an “execution” and she denied bail for 23-year-old Joyner.

Several home surveillance video cameras captured Tse walking down the 200 block of West 23rd Place, dressed in a hooded coat as Joyner pulled up in a car, Murphy said. Joyner, wearing a surgical face mask and hoodie, fired seven shots at Tse, paused and then fired seven more times, Murphy said.

Tse covered his head and ears before falling to the ground during the second volley of shots. Joyner then stopped the car, got out and walked “calmly” toward Tse while yelling, “Hey! Hey!” and pointing a gun, according to Murphy.

Joyner fired nine more shots before walking “calmly” back to the car, Murphy said.

Tse was struck several times in the head and body, and was pronounced dead at Stroger Hospital. Police recovered 18 9mm shell casings on the road and sidewalk.

Shortly after the shooting, police obtained the plate number of Joyner’s car and used at least 10 license plate reading cameras to track him to the Kennedy Expressway, Murphy said. Joyner was arrested a little over an hour later, alone in the car, around Jackson Boulevard wearing the same clothes as the gunman in the video, Murphy said.

A gun found tucked between the driver’s seat and center console matched the spent shell casings at the murder scene, Murphy said. The weapon was a “ghost gun,” put together using random, mixed parts, with no serial number, he said. Joyner’s hands allegedly tested positive for gun powder residue.

Joyner refused to talk to investigators, police said. He has a record of gun charges, and Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan said police are looking at other apparently random shootings to see if they’re linked to Joyner.

“Detectives from the North Side have already reached out to these detectives, and we’re comparing everything we possibly can from those cases to this case or any other case that may appear to a random act of violence,” Deenihan said at a news conference Wednesday night announcing the charges.

“We don’t know at this time but we’re definitely investigating that based on what happened here,” he said.

Joyner was arrested quickly because the Chinatown Community Watch called the commander of the police district on his cellphone within minutes, police said. Cmdr. Don Jerome said information from the scene was relayed to the department’s strategic support center.

Alphonso Joyner
Chicago Police

Joyner’s attorney said “essential information” was lacking in the prosecution’s case. The car’s tinted windows left the possibility that other people were in the car and could’ve been the shooter, the attorney said.

Joyner grew up in Chicago and lives in the city with his sister, the attorney said.

Joyner was arrested in December 2020 on the West Side for allegedly driving with a loaded gun with a laser sight in his glovebox. He had a valid FOID card at the time but no concealed-carry license, court records show.

He was initially charged with a felony, but those charges were dropped and Joyner pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. He was sentenced to two days in prison, but was released on time served.

The state’s attorney’s office released a statement late Thursday saying “the evidence was insufficient to file felony charges, as the gun was in a closed glove box and the defendant had a valid FOID.

“The police filed a misdemeanor case and the defendant pled guilty to the misdemeanor charge,” the office said. “As a result of the conviction, his FOID was revoked.”

Tse moved to the Chicago area from China 50 years ago and worked as a cook until he saved enough money to open a restaurant and then another. His son William Tse told reporters after Thursday’s hearing that his family was “speechless so many people came out to help us” after the murder.

“We don’t have an answer to why this happened. We just want justice,” William Tse said. “I know my dad loved me, my two sisters, all the grandkids and especially my mother. I feel so bad for her,” he said, breaking into tears.

William Tse, the son of Woom Sing Tse, speaks to reporters at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse after a bond hearing for the man charged with fatally shooting his 71-year-old father, Thursday afternoon, Dec. 9, 2021.
William Tse, the son of Woom Sing Tse, speaks to reporters at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse after a bond hearing for the man charged with fatally shooting his 71-year-old father, Thursday afternoon, Dec. 9, 2021.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Contributing: Andy Grimm