4 teens charged in fatal shooting of Chicago police Officer Aréanah Preston during ‘very violent crime spree’

Prosecutors said Preston was killed at the end of a robbery spree that began when a suspect’s girlfriend “needed money for a barbecue.”

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Chicago police officer Aréanah Preston in her official portrait for the Chicago Police Department.

Chicago police Officer Aréanah Preston was fatally shot returning home from work last weekend.

Chicago Police Department

A call by a 16-year-old boy bragging about the killing of Chicago police Officer Aréanah Preston helped authorities crack the case and charge four teenagers with first-degree murder, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Jaylen Frazier asked a friend whether he had seen the news about Preston being gunned down in front of her home earlier and told him “it was his work,” prosecutors said in court documents.

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The friend later went to the police and, in front of detectives, called Frazier and put him on speakerphone as the teen talked about the shooting, “including details that had not been released,” prosecutors said.

They said he also talked about armed robberies he and his friends had committed because a girlfriend needed money for a barbecue. They already had robbed five people and had stolen a car when they came across Preston early Saturday in the 8100 block of South Blackstone Avenue, according to prosecutors.

By Tuesday evening, as a vigil was being held for Preston, Frazier’s mom accompanied her son as he surrendered to police. Hours later, he and three other teens were charged with first-degree murder.

On Wednesday, a judge denied bail for Frazier and the others: Joseph Brooks, 18; Jakwon Buchanan, 18; and Trevell Breeland, 19.

“These four defendants are alleged to have engaged in a very violent crime spree,” Judge David Kelly said at a bond hearing. “This court finds, provided the mountain of evidence, that these individuals were involved in the crimes they are charged with.”

Dionne Mhoon, mother of Chicago police Officer Aréanah Preston, talks with reporters after a hearing for four teens accused of killing her daughter.

Dionne Mhoon, mother of Chicago police Officer Aréanah Preston, talks with reporters after a hearing for four teens accused of killing her daughter.

Victor Hilitski / Sun-Times

After the hearing, Preston’s mother, Dionne Mhoon, said she couldn’t understand how a 16-year-old boy could take credit for killing someone.

“Any time you can shoot somebody and say, ‘That was my work,’ what kind of human would say that about another human being?” Mhoon said.

She said she “felt sorry” for all four suspects because “nobody told them you were loved, nobody told them you can do anything.”

Mhoon’s daughter was on her way home from work when the suspects passed her in a sedan, circled back and approached as she stood in front of her house, according to prosecutors.

Private surveillance video shows three of the suspects getting out of the car and running toward Preston, prosecutors said. Muzzle flashes can be seen from where the teens are standing and from where Preston was.

Brooks told detectives he shot Preston, who was still in her uniform, when he saw her reaching for her gun, according to prosecutors.

When the officer fell, the teens are seen running back to the sedan, but one of them returned to Preston and took her gun before rejoining the group, prosecutors said. Her magazine for the gun was left behind.

Police later recovered nearly a dozen 9 mm shell casings from the scene.

Preston was hit at least twice and also grazed by a bullet. ShotSpotter, the city’s gunshot detection system, picked up the barrage of gunfire, but it took the police more than 30 minutes to respond to the scene.

The officer drove her to University of Chicago Medical Center, where Preston was pronounced dead.

The teenagers fled to a vacant lot in the 7200 block of South Eberhart Avenue, where private surveillance video captured them walking together north through an alley to the back door of a home, prosecutors said. Video from a distance later showed the car, a Kia, burning.

Prosecutors said Frazier called his friend later that evening.

“Frazier asked if he had seen the news about a police officer being killed. ... Frazier said it was his work,” prosecutors said. Frazier “told him they were out robbing people when they saw a single female in her car. They were going to rob her, but the female shot at them. One of the guys he was with shot back at the cop and killed her.”

Frazier claimed he stayed inside the Kia while the other three suspects robbed and shot Preston, prosecutors said. They later burned the Kia using lighter fluid, prosecutors said Frazier told the police.

Frazier’s mother told the Chicago Sun-Times she attended a memorial for Preston Tuesday evening after leaving the police station to turn in her son.

“She did not deserve that. I am very, very sorry about what happened,” Jaquanna Walker said.

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Hundreds of police officers and mourners attend a vigil Tuesday for Chicago Police Officer Aréanah Preston at the Calumet District police station.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

‘A fallen hero’

At a news conference to discuss the charges, interim Police Supt. Eric Carter called Preston a “fallen hero” and asked Chicagoans to pray for her, her family and the officers who responded to the shooting “as they process the trauma they experienced.”

“She was a beloved daughter, sister and friend who wanted to make a difference in this world,” Carter told reporters. “Those who knew her will tell you that’s exactly what she did. She wanted to help create a better future for Chicago, but the incomprehensible actions of four offenders took that future from her, and the loss to the city is tremendous.”

“I ask that everyone continue to pray for Aréanah’s family as they navigate this world without her.

“While we know that this does not ease the pain, we hope that knowing the people responsible for her murder have been caught … raises a small measure of peace to them,” Carter added. “Though Aréanah’s not physically here with us, her spirit of service and kindness will forever carry on and we will never forget it.”

Calumet District Cmdr. Tyrone Pendarvis, Preston’s boss, described her as a “star” who “made her presence known” by always saying hello to him. He said the last person arrested by Preston wept after learning she had been killed.

“That speaks to the credit of Officer Preston, because she connected with everyone,” Pendarvis said. “She was empathetic to everyone’s problems” regardless of whether they’d been arrested.

Pendarvis acknowledged the charges “won’t bring Aréanah back,” but he said they will help her loved ones “on a journey to get over this loss.”

Chief of Patrol Brian McDermott declined to answer questions about the delayed police response to Preston’s shooting.

Despite the city’s gunshot detection system registering nine rounds in the area around the time of the shooting, it took more than 30 minutes for a traffic officer to respond to an alert from Preston’s Apple Watch and find her fatally wounded.

Police officials confirmed Preston’s gun was taken in the shooting and has not been recovered.

Shooting came at end of robbery spree

Suspects.png

From left: Joseph Brooks, Jakwon Buchanan and Trevell Breeland.

Chicago Police Department

Prosecutors said Preston was killed at the end of a robbery spree that began when Buchanan was contacted by his girlfriend who told him “she needed money for a barbecue.”

Buchanan’s girlfriend and another woman picked up Buchanan, Brooks, Breeland and Frazier shortly after midnight Saturday in her Dodge Avenger, prosecutors said. All four were allegedly wearing black clothing and had face coverings.

Both women later identified all the suspects in a photo array, except Frazier, who was only identified by one of the women, prosecutors said.

The group allegedly first robbed a 33-year-old woman after she parked near the 900 block of East 46th Street. The woman said she was approached by four people who were each armed with a handgun with an extended magazine, and they demanded her Louis Vuitton belt before taking her cellphone and other items, including credit cards, prosecutors said.

The group then decided to steal a car and located a red Kia sedan in the 4700 block of South Indiana Avenue, which they stole, leaving the two women in the Dodge, prosecutors said.

The Kia was used by the four suspects in a robbery shortly afterward. They pulled up to a 62-year-old woman standing in front of her home and talking to a 29-year-old woman in the 10000 block of South Wallace Avenue, prosecutors said. The group pushed the two women to the ground and robbed them at gunpoint, taking a Coach bag and a cellphone, prosecutors said.

The teens then drove to the 9100 block of South Merrill, where a man had just parked his Tesla. He was surrounded by the teens, who took his cellphone and Tesla key, prosecutors said. They discarded both shortly after taking them, prosecutors said.

The suspects soon began following Preston’s car, prosecutors said.

Cellphone records for at least one of the suspects place his phone in the areas of the robberies that night, prosecutors said. Others in the group were identified by witnesses in separate photo lineups, prosecutors said.

All four of the teens have previously been convicted of robbery as juveniles.

Chicago police union president John Catanzara seized on the criminal records of each suspect.

“The Preston family is a victim here. They aren’t the only victim. This city is loaded with victims every day,” he said after the court hearing. “This system is broken. You look at the extensive records of every one of these offenders, and every time that they get a second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth chance.

“And we keep saying they’re going to change, and they don’t,” he said.

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