Updated 1/7/14. As another year drew to a close, the RoundTable sat down with Evanston’s Chief of Police, Richard Eddington, to discuss violent crimes old and new, and the efforts the department is taking to combat and to solve such crimes. The good news: the department expects to “clear” all cases of homicide that occurred in Evanston in 2013.
The bad news: there were four of them, and one may be connected to an ongoing dispute between small groups of young men in Evanston.
Evanston resident Floyd Gibert, 30, was shot and killed on Dec. 7, 2013. Mr. Gibert, a longtime friend of Javar Bamberg, posted a message of condolence on the one-year anniversary of the murder of his friend Javar. The message was posted on Internet social media, Chief Eddington said.
Responses to that posting spiraled, the Chief said, and led to an agreement to meet for what was supposed to be a fistfight.
Unfortunately for Mr. Gibert, said Chief Eddington, it turned out to be more than a fistfight. Mr. Gibert was shot, and when a member of the Bamberg extended family tried to rush him to the hospital the car crashed on Green Bay Road. EMTs carried Mr. Gibert the rest of the way, but he died at the hospital.
Less than a week later, police arrested Dominic Connerly, a former Evanston resident, in Zion, Ill., and charged him with the slaying. Mr. Connerly is the 22-year-old brother of Darien Marquez-Connerly, who awaits trial for the 2011 murder of taxi driver Leodis Blackburn, said the Chief.
On Nov. 29, 2012, Justin Murray, 19, was shot and killed at approximately 6:15 p.m., just hours after returning to Evanston from California. He was standing with several people in front of his grandmother’s home when he was shot. Police previously said they did not know if Justin was the target of the shooting. His mother, Carolyn Murray, said he was an innocent bystander.
Chief Eddington said the police have “put significant time” into solving Justin’s murder. “Two suspects are now beyond police reach,” he said. The person suspected of actually pulling the trigger is now dead, said the Chief. (See clarification.)
On Dec. 8, 2012, Donte Blackwell was shot multiple times outside the now-closed Siblings Bar on Howard Street, but he survived the attack. The Chief said that the Evanston Police Department presented a case to the Cook County State’s Attorney, but they “were reluctant to take the case.” It remains officially unsolved.
Javar Bamberg was shot and killed on Dec. 12, 2012. While the police suspect that certain people were involved in the killing, “it will take a statement implicating” someone if charges are ever to be filed, said the Chief.
On May 12, 2013, Blake Ross, 19, an Evanston resident and a friend of Donte Blackwell, was killed and his body found on the south side of Chicago. While his murder remains unsolved as well, Chief Eddington said police have “physical evidence that we have high hopes for.”
Stop and Frisk
One of the tools implemented in 2013 to prevent further violence is the “stop and frisk” policy. EPD rolled out the policy after multiple community meetings in the Second and Fifth wards, and ultimately acceptance of the policy by the community. Since its onset, the police have “stayed out of trouble by” keeping the policy “specifically targeted to primarily those people we know to be combatants in the ongoing dispute,” said Chief Eddington.
“The concept is invaluable in stopping crimes of passion,” said the Chief, or crimes occasioned by two people just happening to run into each other on the street. Word has circulated within the community that people who carry weapons will be searched and charged.
The “poster child” of the policy at work, said Chief Eddington, is the arrest of Antoine Hill, the man convicted of killing Robert Gresham, a stepbrother of Javar Bamberg, in 2005 in the Keg. Mr. Hill and Blair Aikens, who was wanted on a Pennsylvania narcotics charge, were spotted by police “creeping up” on a member of the Bamberg family on July 16, said the Chief. When police officers approached them, the two attempted unsuccessfully to flee. Police recovered two 9-millimeter handguns from the two, and both men were charged with Unlawful Use of a Weapon by a Felon.
Chief Eddington mentioned only one other arrest made under the stop and frisk policy, that of a 16-year-old. But arrests are not necessarily what the Chief hopes to achieve. Rather, he hopes to foster “the concept that the bad guys know they’re subject to search. … I don’t have to arrest you, just don’t shoot anybody.”
“Huge kudos go to the men and women of the department,” said Chief Eddington. “They understand the directive, understand who we’re looking for. They have made the program less controversial.”
On Sept. 10, 2013, 21-year-old Cardereon Priester was shot and killed near Evanston Township High School. Shortly thereafter, police charged 18-year-old Matthew Dubose with the crime. Chief Eddington said it was “a sad situation all the way around.” The slaying resulted from “a gun and dope deal that went bad,” he said. The parties went back and forth for several weeks, with offers and demands going both ways. Then “the opportunity presented itself “ and Mr. Priester was shot, said the Chief.
Neither Mr. Priester nor Mr. Dubose is directly involved in the ongoing dispute, said the Chief.
In late July 2013, Azim Hakeem, 38, and Mobeen Hakeem, 34, managers of their family-owned Evanston Pipe and Tobacco Company, were found murdered in the basement of the shop. While the police have not officially cleared that crime, they are close to doing so, said Chief Eddington. Evanston police say they have evidence linking a man to the crime, including an identification of one of the brothers and a Social Security card of the other found in a locker used by the man whom they say is a suspect. They are waiting for the Illinois Crime Lab to determine if a shell casing found in the a locker used by the suspect matches those found at the murder scene, and to determine if the suspect’s DNA and fingerprints match those found at the murder scene.
During 2013, the police cleared two murders, each more than 20 years old, which “speaks to the diligence and attention to detail” the Police Department gives to each case, said Chief Eddington.
Jimmie Dunlap was charged in May 2013 for the 1992 murder of Deeondra Dawson in her apartment on Sherman Avenue. EPD evidence technician Steve Goldenberg did what Chief Eddington called “phenomenal work” in collecting and preserving evidence from the 21-year- old crime. After the initial investigation, police recently re-submitted evidence recovered in 1992 for further DNA analysis. Using new technology, they identified Mr. Dunlap, who was on parole for an unrelated offense, as a possible suspect.
Police picked up Mr. Dunlap and collected DNA sample swabs to confirm they had the right person, said the Chief.
Mr. Dunlap is not what Chief Eddington calls a “frequent flyer,” but had only occasional brushes with the law over the past 30 years. He now faces trial for murder.
In contrast to Mr. Dunlap, said Chief Eddington, Prentice Phillips is someone “we’ve had down here for multiple investigations over the years.” Mr. Phillips, an Evanston resident, was arrested in December 2013 and charged with the 1988 murder of Margaret Blair in her Rogers Park apartment. Mr. Phillips is awaiting trial.
The 2005 murder of Linda Twyman remains unsolved, said Chief Eddington, though “we continue to work the case [and] there is a person of interest” whom the police are pursuing. It is “not anybody on the public radar,” he said. The person of interest is currently in prison and “not going anywhere,” said the Chief. He added the case is “a tough one, but there is some hope that we’ll eventually prosecute” someone for Ms. Twyman’s murder.
Numerous murders still remain unsolved, such as those of Helder Torres and Leslie Calvin. But as 2013 shows and Chief Eddington frequently says, the EPD does not forget about the victims or their families, and while cases may become cold, they are never closed until an arrest is made.
Sharon Eckersall was elected Township Assessor in April 2013, but she died before her term was to begin, Jan. 1, 2014. She was found dead in her home in September. Chief Eddington said that “there are no signs of foul play… no signs of anything untoward.”
A question arose because the police were called to the home between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. on the morning of Ms. Eckersall’s death to intervene in a dispute between Ms. Eckersall and tenants who lived in her home. The altercation “was nothing physical,” said Chief Eddington, and did not contribute to her death.
EPD contacted the medical examiner “out of an abundance of caution,” said the Chief. The department still awaits a final toxicology report.