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Kids who saw barbershop killing ‘will have to live with this horror,’ judge says

Some Cook County judges seeking retention in November stand out for the excellent reputations they have earned for their work on the bench.

Cook County's Leighton Criminal Court building. | Sun-Times files

Bail was denied Monday for a Grand Crossing man charged with first-degree murder in a shooting last month at a busy Rosemoor neighborhood barbershop.

The killing happened in front of a group of children who were among the shop’s customers and stemmed from a long-running feud between the two men, Cook County prosecutors said.

Judge John F. Lyke Jr. called the Nov. 2 shooting”utterly egregious” and lamented that the two men had not settled their dispute the “old-fashioned way” with their fists.

“The barbershop is an institution in some parts of this community,” a visibly disgusted Lyke said before denying bail to the alleged gunman, 39-year-old Martrez O’Neal.

“These kids will have to live with this horror the rest of their lives,” Lyke said.

Martrez O’Neal | Chicago police

Shortly after 10 a.m., O’Neal arrived at the barbershop in the 10200 block of South St. Lawrence and saw 40-year-old Antoine Jones getting his hair cut, prosecutors said. The two men were involved in an “ongoing dispute from many years ago” and exchanged words, but no threats were initially uttered.

Before leaving, Jones retrieved his coat from the seat next to O’Neal and asked O’Neal to “step outside to air out their differences,” prosecutors said.

Jones was walking toward the door when O’Neal took a handgun from his pocket and fired it 2-3 times into Jones’ back, prosecutors said. Jones spun around as the shots were fired and fell face down at O’Neal’s feet. O’Neal then fired 3-4 more times into Jones’ body and head.

He was pronounced dead at the scene, authorities said.

Between five and eight children — all around the age of 10 — were in the shop when the shots were fired, prosecutors said. They were told to run out the back door by a witness.

Two people identified O’Neal as the gunman, and the person who called 911 also identified both men, prosecutors said.

A no-bail warrant was issued for O’Neal’s arrest on Wednesday and he turned himself in at the Calumet District police station two days later, according to Chicago police records.

O’Neal’s attorney, Andrea D. Bonds, said Jones brought his own gun to the shop that day, had threatened O’Neal just prior to the shooting and had shot at O’Neal on a previous occasion.

O’Neal is a single father who served in the U.S. Army and Navy, Bonds said. He had been diagnosed with several mental health disorders and suffered from numerous physical ailments. Additionally, she said, he was supported by several family members in attendance at the hearing and had never been convicted of a crime.

Lyke said the motion to reduce bail for O’Neal was denied, and he was ordered held at the Cook County Jail while the case continues.

O’Neal’s next court date was scheduled for Jan. 10.