Hand, facial tattoos lead to ID of driver charged in Austin murder, prosecutors say

Manya Chappel faces a charge of first-degree murder in the January drive-by shooting of 24-year-old Demarco Strawder.

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A 49-year-old man has been charged with a September murder in the Austin neighborhood.

The Leighton Criminal Courthouse.

Sun-Times file

A 24-year-old man accused of being behind the wheel of a car used in a deadly drive-by shooting earlier this year was identified by officers and a witness who recognized his distinctive tattoos, according to Cook County prosecutors.

Detectives sorted through “a substantial amount” of footage from private surveillance and police POD cameras after 24-year-old Demarco Strawder was found shot multiple times on Jan. 15, prosecutors said.

Using the footage, police were able to track a dark-colored Volvo Manya Chappel was allegedly driving when he pulled alongside Strawder, who was walking on a sidewalk that afternoon in the 1600 block of North Mayfield.

Footage of the shooting showed Strawder falling to the ground, as someone inside the car fired at least 11 shots in his direction, prosecutors said. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

Chappel and the alleged shooter, who hasn’t been charged, were wearing masks and gloves in much of the footage that police reviewed, prosecutors said. But after they abandoned the Volvo in the Cragin neighborhood, Chappel took off his gloves, giving detectives a view of a tattoo on the back of one of his hands, prosecutors said.

Manya Chappel arrest photo

Manya Chappel

Chicago police

Investigators used this and other images from the footage to show officers assigned to the area, who identified Chappel, prosecutors said.

In addition, a witness said he was approached by Chappel and his accomplice before the shooting when they asked if he knew where they could buy “blows,” prosecutors said. That witness noted Chappel’s facial tattoos and later identified him in a surveillance photo he was shown by police, prosecutors said.

Detectives later obtained cellphone records for Chappel and the suspected gunman, which showed the pair traveling together before and after the shooting, prosecutors said.

Chappel was on bond in a pending unlawful use of a weapon case filed last year at the time of Strawder’s murder and has previous convictions for resisting arrest and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, prosecutors said.

Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said both Chappel and the the suspected shooter are members of a faction of the Four Corner Hustlers street gang and may have targeted Strawder because he was walking in an area where their rivals, the Mafia Insane Vice Lords, are known to sell drugs.

A year before Strawder’s killing, Chappel was wounded and his friend was killed when both were shot by suspected members of the Mafia Insane Vice Lords, Murphy said.

Court records show Chappel was arrested Wednesday at his home in West Pullman. He was subsequently charged with a count of first-degree murder.

Chappel most recently worked as a tow truck driver, an assistant public defender said in court.

Judge Mary Marubio ordered Chappel held without bail and set his next hearing for June 8.

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