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Man was out ‘hunting’ for someone to shoot when he killed 9-year-old, prosecutors say

Darrell Johnson was ordered held without bail for the murder of Janari Ricks in a vacant lot near the site of the former Cabrini-Green housing project.

Janari Ricks.
Janari Ricks
Provided

A 39-year-old man was out “hunting” for someone to shoot when he fired multiple shots, killing a 9-year-old boy playing outside near the former Cabrini-Green housing project last week, Cook County prosecutors said Tuesday.

Janari Ricks — an honor-roll student who was about to enter the fourth grade — was shaking hands with a neighbor in a courtyard near the 500 block of West Locust Street Friday when Darrell Johnson allegedly fired at least six shots into the courtyard from the cover of a nearby alley.

Upon hearing the gunshots, Janari turned and ran, but collapsed nearby as he was struck in the back and right arm, prosecutors said.

Multiple witnesses identified Johnson as the shooter and high-quality surveillance video captured Johnson’s face as he walked out of the alley, prosecutors said.

Cameras also showed Johnson entering the alley before the shooting and walking with a distinctive limp, the result of him being shot in the leg several years ago, prosecutors said.

As he “wobbled” down the alley, Johnson allegedly peered through a fence as if looking for someone.

“He went hunting,” Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said of Johnson. “According to the video, he’s walking down that alley looking for somebody to shoot [and] clearly saw the group of people, including children, that were out there in that courtyard.”

One witness also saw Johnson limping in the alley after the shooting, prosecutors said.

Janari, who police described as “an unintended target,” was taken to Lurie Children’s Hospital, where he was pronounced dead an hour later.

The boy’s family said he dreamed of becoming a professional basketball player and nicknamed himself “Young Curry” after his favorite basketball player, Stephen Curry, the Chicago Sun-Times previously reported.

Johnson was taken into custody Sunday in Chatham when he tried to get into his girlfriend’s Nissan Altima. It was the same vehicle Johnson got into after shooting Janari two days before, prosecutors said.

At a news conference Monday, CPD Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan credited neighbors with helping officers find the alleged gunman quickly.

“We’re not in this position without the help of the community who came forward and gave us information which allowed us to identify and arrest the suspect,” Deenihan said.

Darrell Johnson
Darrell Johnson
Chicago police

Johnson’s attorney, Nick Burris, did not argue against the evidence given by prosecutors Tuesday, but said Johnson was a “responsible adult” who should be allowed to post bond and placed on electronic or GPS monitoring while he awaits trial.

Burris said Johnson is a father of two, has a third child on the way and works in construction to support his family.

He was previously convicted of a 2005 aggravated vehicular highjacking and sentenced to four years in prison, according to court records. He also has convictions for aggravated battery and a gun offense, prosecutors said.

Judge Susana Ortiz ordered Johnson held without bail, citing his previous convictions and the possible life sentence he may receive if found guilty in Janari’s murder.

Based on the allegations, Ortiz said Johnson poses a danger to “all citizens of the community.”

“Unfortunately on this day it happened to be an innocent 9-year-old,” the judge said.

Earlier in court Tuesday, a third man charged in the fatal shooting of 7-year-old Natalia Wallace was also ordered held without bail.

Fifteen children, including Natalia and Janari, have been shot to death in Chicago since June 20, according to the Sun-Times’ records. Five of the victims were 10 years old or younger.