Former student, 16, accused in Juarez High School December shooting that killed 2 had been expelled, prosecutors say

They said Christian Acevedo was expelled earlier in the school year and had questioned one of the victims about gang affiliation before the shooting.

SHARE Former student, 16, accused in Juarez High School December shooting that killed 2 had been expelled, prosecutors say
A mourner crouches at a vigil outside Benito Juarez High School in Pilsen less than a week after a mass shooting outside the school during dismissal on Dec. 16 left two teenagers dead and two wounded.

A mourner crouches at a vigil outside Benito Juarez High School in Pilsen less than a week after a mass shooting outside the school during dismissal on Dec. 16 left two teenagers dead and two wounded.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Cook County prosecutors said Saturday that the 16-year-old former Juarez High School student who’s accused of killing two teenagers at the Pilsen school in December and wounding two others had been expelled earlier in the school year over behavioral, academic and attendance issues.

Christian Acevedo, who was ordered held without bail Saturday, has been charged as an adult with first-degree murder and attempted murder in the Dec. 16 shooting.

Surveillance cameras recorded Acevedo near the campus before the shooting, including talking with people on a soccer field and running from the area afterwards, but cameras did not record the shooting, prosecutors said.

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Juarez student Brandon Perez, 15, and Nathan Billegas, 14, a student at Chicago Bulls College Prep, were standing with others shortly after classes were dismissed around 2:30 p.m. in a plaza under a bridge that connects two wings of the school, prosecutors said.

Witnesses told investigators they heard someone say there were “Razas over there” — referring to the La Raza street gang — and that someone warned Perez and Billegas that Acevedo was there to cause trouble, prosecutors said.

Authorities have said Acevedo is a member of the Bishops street gang and that Billegas was affiliated with another gang.

Acevedo approached Perez and Billegas and asked Perez if he was a Raza, and Perez asked why he wanted to know, prosecutors said.

They said Acevedo walked a few steps away before turning and opening fire, striking Perez and Billegas both in the head and wounding two other students, then running away.

A witness took a photo of Acevedo holding a gun and standing over one of the victims, prosecutors said. They said multiple people, including a Chicago police officer who had previous encounters with Acevedo, identified him as the shooter from the surveillance footage.

On Thursday, Acevedo was seen driving a stolen vehicle that police followed to his home, where he ran inside while holding a rifle, prosecutors said. Officers entered the home shortly after and arrested him but didn’t find a rifle on the first floor of the home.

Four guns, three of them with illegal aftermarket devices called switches that made them fully automatic, were found in Acevedo’s room, and so were extended magazines, prosecutors said. Ammunition was found in his bedroom and in the garage, according to prosecutors.

Acevedo also faces juvenile charges including felony counts of aggravated discharge on school grounds and other weapons charges.

Nicholas Giordano, his lawyer, called the accusations “horrible” but told Judge Ankur Srivastava that prosecutors had not said the evidence includes DNA or fingerprints.

Acevedo lives with family members including his father and grandmother and was in the process of getting enrolled in a program to get back in school, Giordano said.

The attorney questioned why it took the police months to arrest his client if they had “all these identifications” and asked that Acevedo be released to a parent.

Srivastava cited the potential life sentence Acevedo would face if convicted as well as the identifications of Acevedo and the weapons found in Acevedo’s possession, in his decision to hold the teenager without bail.

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