Moments before two men opened fired on a young mother holding her infant child earlier this week in Austin, the 1-year-old held up her hand, smiled and waved at them as they drove up, prosecutors said.
Despite that, 39-year-old Michael Washington fired from the passenger seat of the Chevrolet Impala into the group of people the mother was standing with shortly before 9 a.m. in the 1200 block of North Mason, authorities said.
Brittany Hill, 24, was almost immediately struck by one of the bullets in the abdomen, but was able to keep hold of her child and then turned to shield her baby from further gunfire, prosecutors said.
Washington and 23-year-old Eric Adams, who was driving, stopped the car, a silver Chevy Impala, got out and continued to fire at the fleeing victims, prosecutors said.
As the others in the group ran off, Hill staggered away and fell at the back of a parked car, where she continued to shield her daughter, prosecutors said.
Judge John F. Lyke Jr. denied bail for both men when they appeared at an initial hearing Thursday at the Leighton Criminal Court Building on charges of first-degree murder in Hill’s death.
Lyke called the shooting “chilling, mind-boggling and utterly senseless,” and appeared to choke up as he recounted how Hill had protected her baby.
“This mother, even though shot, was still trying to protect her child,” Lyke said.
Hill’s 1-year-old daughter survived the attack and Hill’s actions to protect the girl as she faced the violent onslaught have been praised as heroic.
Prosecutors said the shooting was captured by Chicago police POD surveillance cameras and that Washington and Hill could both be clearly seen in the footage.
The apparent targets of the shooting are believed to be the people Hill was standing with when the shots rang out, authorities said. Hill had been talking with her daughter’s 23-year-old father, who was seated in a parked car in the block, and with two other men, ages 19 and 26.
Once Washington and Adams finally left, prosecutors said the 23-year-old father could been seen on video surveillance head back to his car with a gun and chase after the shooters, who he eventually lost sight of in Oak Park.
A passerby picked Hill up in their car and rushed her to West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park, but she was pronounced dead shortly after arriving, authorities said.
The Impala’s license plate was matched to a recent traffic stop in which Washington was the driver, prosecutors said.
Washington and Adams, both of Urbana, were taken into custody five hours after the shooting in the downstate city, authorities said.
When Chicago police called to alert authorities they were looking for Washington and Adams, Champaign police told them they were preparing to stake out Washington’s Urbana home in order to serve a search warrant of their own in connection with a drug investigation, prosecutors said.
Both men arrived back at the home about 2 p.m. Thursday and were driving the car allegedly used in the shooting, as well as wearing the same clothes as the offenders recorded on video surveillance, prosecutors said. The search of the home resulted in police seizing 62 grams of marijuana, 1.4 grams of heroin, a ballistic vest and $1,300 in cash.
Neither man is a stranger to the criminal justice system, prosecutors said.
Washington has nine felony convictions, including for a 2004 second-degree murder charge and a 2001 battery charge that was reduced from attempted murder in a plea agreement, prosecutors said. He was on parole for a drug conviction at the time of the shooting.
State Department of Corrections records show he was paroled in March 2018 after serving time at the Lincoln Correctional Center.
Adams, prosecutors said, is currently serving a two-year probation sentence after he was convicted of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon last year.
Attorney William Luby, who represented both men at the hearing, said Washington was employed full-time, lived with his sister and has a ninth-grade education. Adams completed the 11th grade, lives with his mother and was employed in various temporary staffing positions, he said.