A community gathered at a Southwest Side elementary school Monday to mourn the death of an 11-year-old student with thick glasses and a fondness for Flamin' Hot Cheetos as police pressed on with their search for the man they believe caused the crash that took the boy's life.
More than 100 people attended the afternoon vigil to honor Donovan Turnage at Morrill Math and Science Specialty School, which reopened during winter break so family, teachers and classmates could share their goodbyes.
Donovan, his brother and their father were out getting haircuts when carjacking suspect Rockie Douglas, 34, allegedly barreled into their Chevrolet Suburban on Saturday while being chased by police, authorities said.
The Illinois State Police said it was working with Chicago police and federal law enforcement officials late Monday in the search for Douglas, whose last known address was in far north suburban Beach Park. As police sources offered new details Monday about the dangerous driving that led to the boy's death, court files indicated that Douglas has a long string of arrests, from the Chicago area to southern Wisconsin.
Donovan's brother, Derrick Turnage, who was in the Suburban when the crash happened, recalled the moment of impact.
"We just spun," said Derrick, 20. "And my father was hollering … 'Where is Donovan?' And I looked back, and I reached for his coat, but he was nowhere in the back."
Then they saw Donovan sprawled on the curb, Derrick said.
"I held his head, and I looked him in his eye. I already (could) tell he drifted away right there," he said.
A police source said authorities believe Douglas embarked on a carjacking spree that began about 11:20 a.m. Friday on the North Side, when he allegedly forced a woman out of a green Dodge minivan at a gas station along West Irving Park Road.
About noon on Saturday, officers responded to a 911 call of a suspicious vehicle at 51st and Halsted streets in the Back of the Yards neighborhood on the South Side, another police source said. When officers identified the vehicle as the one that had been carjacked the day before, they tried to approach it, but the driver sped away, authorities said.
Police pursued the vehicle south on Halsted until at Garfield Boulevard it crashed into the Chevrolet Suburban carrying the Turnage family, police sources said.
The suspect then raced away on foot and, authorities allege, carjacked another vehicle, a Toyota SUV, at a nearby gas station.
While driving the SUV, the suspect rammed into a police sergeant's squad car before heading onto Garfield in the opposite lanes of traffic, police said.
Chicago police stopped pursuing the driver once he entered the Dan Ryan Expressway about a mile away. He again drove in the wrong direction, heading north in the southbound lanes, police sources said.
But then, according to the chain of events described by authorities, the SUV broke down on a ramp from I-294 to the Reagan Memorial Tollway. A concerned motorist tried to help the man, later identified by police as Douglas, police said.
Douglas allegedly then forced his way into that person's vehicle, a 2007 Honda Accord. Chicago police said Douglas might still be driving that light blue, four-door Honda bearing Illinois license plate X144777.
Douglas, whom police said had displayed a blue steel handgun during at least one of the carjackings, was last seen fleeing in the Honda west on the Reagan Tollway.
Court documents indicate Douglas' criminal record includes convictions for burglary, forgery and theft, and he was recently in custody in Lake County.
Lake County prosecutors in September charged Douglas with misdemeanor criminal trespass to vehicles after he was arrested by sheriff's officers, according to court records. He was released on his own recognizance, court records show.
Then on Oct. 4, he was charged in Lake County with being a fugitive from justice who fled to Illinois to avoid Wisconsin authorities, according to court records. Douglas had pleaded guilty to burglary in 2007 in Kenosha County, Wis., and was sentenced to 7½ years of probation, court records show.
He waived his right to official extradition proceedings. Lake County prosecutors dropped the fugitive from justice charge based on the understanding that he had been passed into the custody of Wisconsin authorities, Lake County State's Attorney Mike Nerheim said.
Wisconsin corrections officials were unable to provide information Monday, and Kenosha County authorities could not be reached.
On Friday, Lake County prosecutors charged Douglas with fleeing from Zion police in a stolen 2010 Nissan Altima on Dec. 12 after officers tried to pull him over, according to court records. An arrest warrant was issued and he was charged with two counts of residential burglary in connection with two alleged Zion home burglaries, unlawful possession of a stolen vehicle and aggravated fleeing from police.
On Dec. 13, prosecutors charged him with using force to steal a woman's purse in Gurnee. He was charged with robbery and theft, and an arrest warrant was issued.
In Cook County, Douglas has several theft-related arrests, including for identity theft, records show.
Most recently he was convicted in 2012 of felony theft and sentenced to boot camp, records show.
Donovan Turnage's brother, speaking after the vigil, said he understands that police were doing their job when the crash occurred.
"They're doing as much as they can," Derrick said. "I'm not going to blame anybody but the guy that hit us. I'm not going to blame the police. I hope they find him. I think they're doing their job."
At the vigil, attendees hugged one another and held lit candles. The Norah Jones song "Long Way Home" played on the loudspeaker.
A parent volunteer at Donovan's school, Angie Gray, drew laughter from the crowd when she remembered how he had a snappy temper as a little boy, and how she was able to help him change that.
She shared with the audience an hourlong conversation with him about his temper.
She recalled Donovan telling her: "'I don't have an attitude today. I won't be mad today, Ms. Gray. I'm going to be real good ... because you said so."
Gray said she was gratified to see the fifth-grader's maturation.
"Watching him transition made me feel so important. You don't feel important to everybody. Watching him transition did something to me," she said.
One of Donovan's teachers, Kristal Coleman, recalled how she once busted him for sneaking a bag of Flamin' Hot Cheetos into class. Coleman noted how she took the bag and ate some herself.
"'I don't eat Flamin' Hots. But (they) taste good because they're not mine,'" Coleman said she told Donovan, drawing a roar of laughs from the crowd. "Our classroom won't be the same without him. We'll miss the laughter. Nobody could crack a joke like him."
Donovan's mother, Annette Mayfield-Turnage, was clearly touched by the size of the audience.
"My heart is overwhelmed with the support that I've received from my son's school and the community, and my family. I mean without them, I probably couldn't be as strong as I am now, but we've been having this support every day since this happened," she said.
"He was a good kid. I loved him. We loved him. He will be truly missed. But we know he's watching over us. And his little spirit is going to be everywhere."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun