‘I got something for you.’ Moments later, a car traveling 60 mph hit four people in front of South Shore bar, killing three of them
In announcing murder charges against Tavis Dunbar, 34, police said they were still without a motive and have no evidence yet that the attack was a hate crime.
As a fight broke out in front of Jeffery Pub earlier this month, one of the patrons yelled out, “I got something for you,” and walked up the street.
Minutes later, a car came barreling down the block, reaching around 60 mph as it plowed into a group of people still tussling in front of the bar at 7041 S. Jeffery Blvd. in the early hours of Aug. 14.
Videos show people being hurled through the air. At least one of them landed on the next block. Killed were Jaylen Ausley, 23, Devonta Vivetter, 27, and Donald Huey, 25. A 22-year-old man was seriously injured.
A week later, police say they’ve placed Tavis Dunbar, 34, behind the wheel of the car. What they don’t have yet is a clear motive.
Police say they do not believe Dunbar had been involved in the fight, and they have no evidence the attack was a hate crime directed at people inside the pub, a well-known gay bar in South Shore.
“Why did he do this? We don’t know that,” Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan told reporters Tuesday morning, hours after Dunbar was charged with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.
The announcement came the same day as a funeral for Huey and a wake for Ausley. Relatives welcomed news of the arrest, but said they were disappointed authorities could not say why their loved ones were killed so brutally.
“It’s a little comfort that they have him and he’s not just running around,” said Huey’s sister Charna Riley. “But I still have to live with knowing that somebody hit my brother for no reason.”
Dunbar’s lawyer said lack of a clear motive undermines the charges. “This very well could be a case in which the driver panicked and failed to report what was a very unfortunate accident,” Robert Kerr said.
As prosecutors laid out their case during a hearing later Tuesday, they noted that Dunbar has twice been sentenced to prison for violent attacks, the latest in 2012 when he beat his 11-year-old brother with a curtain rod and choked him.
In the latest case, prosecutors say he floored the gas pedal of his cousin’s car and never braked as he headed straight toward people in the street.
An altercation had broken out earlier in front of the bar around 5 a.m. and had spilled into the street, according to prosecutors. While police say Dunbar was not involved, court documents say a witness heard a man resembling his description yell out, “I got something for you, you mother------.”
The witness said the person then walked north on Jeffrey, toward where Dunbar’s car was parked. Video shows the headlights soon coming on and then the car speeding toward the group.
The car’s “black box” shows it was traveling at 47 mph a few seconds before impact and 59 mph a half-second before the car hit the four men.
“The accelerator was depressed 99% and (Dunbar) never once touched the brakes,” prosecutors said in a statement presented in court. “(He) essentially slammed on the gas pedal as he drove directly into four human beings.
“Each were either thrown up in the air ... or dragged by the car and left to die in the street as (Dunbar) drove off,” the statement said.
Dunbar made it three more blocks before he parked it, the front end heavily damaged. A witness told police they heard the car making clunking noises up the street.
Dunbar was seen pacing back and forth outside the car while on his cell phone, prosecutors said. He had apparently parked near a friend’s home and called out to him and was let inside.
The friend told police Dunbar’s hands were bloody and there was glass in his hair. Dunbar mentioned the fight outside the bar but not “the true extent of what happened,” prosecutors said. The friend drove Dunbar home, stopping at the parked car so Dunbar could retrieve some items.
At home, Dunbar told someone else he had been kicked out of the bar and drove away because “people were coming at him,” prosecutors said. He claimed he got into an accident as he fled and heavily damaged it, according to prosecutors.
Later, as video of the attack circulated, Dunbar asked that person to provide an alibi for him. The person refused, telling Dunbar he had killed two people.
“Actually, it’s three,” Dunbar replied, according to prosecutors.
As police tracked down Dunbar through video and witnesses, he surrendered Monday morning and “invoked his right to remain silent,” Deenihan said.
“I know there’s a lot of questions on why did he do this,” he said. “We do not have that motive right now. He did not talk.”
Deenihan said there’s currently no evidence that shows Dunbar committed a hate crime or targeted people based on their “sexual orientation, race, creed or anything else.”
In 2012, Dunbar was sentenced to two years in prison for attacking his 11-year-old brother. In 2007, he was charged with hitting someone over the head with a baseball bat during an argument over money and was sentenced to five years, prosecutors said during his bond hearing.
At their request, Judge Susana Ortiz ordered Dunbar held without bail.
Dunbar’s attorney said he expects prosecutors “will have a very difficult time proving the case that was summarized at today’s bond hearing.”
“My fear here is that the state is over-reaching on charges of first-degree murder,” Kerr said. “And that Mr. Dunbar is being unjustly detained without any opportunity to post bail.”
Kerr insisted that Dunbar “is neither a flight risk nor a danger to society,” despite his violent background. “Rather than flee the jurisdiction as someone with a guilty conscience might do, Mr. Dunbar made arrangements to surrender peacefully.”
Huey’s sister said she was relieved that Dunbar “is not just roaming around here thinking it’s cool that he killed all these people.”
The charges were filed shortly before her brother’s funeral in suburban Country Club Hills. After the service, a horse-drawn carriage brought his casket to his gravesite. “It was very nice. It was all about my brother today,” she said.
Still, she is bothered by questions. “What made you do that? What drove you to that? What got you that upset that you felt like you wanted to drive into a crowd as if they weren’t even there?”
Ausley’s mother, Nichelle Weathers, spent the day at her son’s wake, remembering him as an easy son who steered clear of trouble and loved to dance and laugh. “It’s a comfort to know that we’re that much closer to having justice served,” she said.
Ausley excelled academically and earned a full-ride to the University of Michigan, where his mother said he became “well known on campus and became very active in a lot of the civic organizations.”
He returned to work at his alma mater, Gary Comer College Prep, with a mission to “help the students so they could get the opportunities that he had,” Weathers said. He had initially dreamed of becoming a principal but later set his sights on running the Noble Network of Charter Schools, which includes Comer.
“While he was there, they said he did more in one year than some people had done in 10 years there,” Weathers said. “He started the boys’ volleyball team. He was heading up their alumni association. … He volunteered for everything and was willing to help anybody, whether it was from the front office to mentoring.”