A teenage activist was accidentally shot to death by his friend who was allegedly firing his gun at a vehicle in West Rogers Park earlier this summer.
Genove Martin was shooting at a gray Chevrolet Malibu in the 1900 block of West Granville Avenue when he fired “a final shot” that struck 17-year-old Caleb Reed in the forehead shortly before 1 p.m. on July 31, Cook County prosecutors said Tuesday.
Reed, a member of the anti-violence group Good Kids Mad City and a student leader for VOYCE, a group opposed to Chicago police officers providing security in city schools, died two days later at St. Francis Hospital in Evanston.
Weeks before his death, Reed spoke publicly about his experience with police in schools before the Chicago Public Schools Board voted on a $33 million contract with the Chicago Police Department.
“The amount of pain in losing our beloved Caleb Reed is unimaginable. He fearlessly fought to end the cycle of violence. But what Caleb fought for was not just to end violence. He was also working tirelessly to get help for young people who need to heal from the trauma they experience as a result of that violence,” VOYCE officials said in a statement Tuesday. “What happened to Caleb is not a unique situation. The tragic action that led to Caleb’s death is undeniably a call to invest in Black Lives.”
Judge John F. Lyke also called the shooting “a tragedy on so many levels” and described the accusations against 18-year-old Martin “serious” before ordering the teenager held on $300,000 bail.
“He was on his way to college ... if he made it there it could have changed his life,” the judge said of Martin, who had planned to start college in the fall, according to an assistant public defender.
While Martin has been charged with first-degree murder, Lyke was skeptical whether prosecutors could obtain a conviction on that charge based on evidence they presented at Tuesday’s bond hearing.
The judge admonished Martin for engaging in a “gun battle in broad daylight in the middle of the afternoon.”
“Trying to shoot at this other car, he shoots his own friend in the forehead,” the judge said.
“I typically don’t get young men like this, charged with this type of offense. I’m just stunned.”
Surveillance video before the shooting shows Martin, Reed and two of their friends walking on Granville Avenue when the Malibu drives slowly past them before stopping about two houses away, prosecutors said.
The footage then shows the group watching the vehicle closely before Martin allegedly pulls out a handgun and fires at the vehicle. Reed and the two others are seen ducking and running towards Martin, who also starts running while firing a final time over his shoulder, Assistant States Attorney James Murphy said.
“He turns his shoulders and kind of fires right over his shoulder with both hands,” Murphy said. “That bullet that defendant Martin fires from his handgun hits victim Reed directly in the forehead causing him to fall straight to the ground.”
At least one person in the Malibu returned fire, but the gunshots did not come until after Reed was struck by a bullet fired by Martin’s weapon, Murphy said. “...Reed is already falling to the ground when return fire is seen on the video,” the prosecutor told Lyke.
Three .40-caliber shell casing were recovered from the scene, but the weapon has not been recovered, prosecutors said.
After Reed was shot, Martin inquired on social media if his friend was “getting better” and where he had been shot in the head, prosecutors said.
Martin attended Reed’s funeral and a memorial balloon release for the slain teenager, prosecutors said.
After Martin was taken into custody Sunday, he allegedly identified himself in a still image taken from the surveillance footage but claimed he did not have a gun, maintaining someone in the Malibu shot Reed.
“When the detectives showed him the portion of the video that showed him shooting victim Reed in the forehead, defendant Martin had no response,” Murphy said.
Martin, who has no previous criminal background, could face a life sentence if convicted, prosecutors said.
Martin graduated from high school earlier this year and was involved with sports, band and community service activities until he was injured in a shooting in November, the assistant public defender said.
If Martin is able to post bond, he will be monitored by the court’s pretrial services department, Lyke said.
Martin is expected back in court Sept. 21.