By Liam Ford and John P. Huston
3:11 PM EDT, September 28, 2012
Evanston teen Dajae Coleman was fatally gunned down last weekend by a man who mistakenly targeted him while looking for revenge, authorities said today.
Wesley Woodson III, 20, of the 1700 block of Ashland Avenue in the north suburb, is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated discharge of a firearm. He was denied bail during a hearing this morning in Skokie Branch Court.
Dajae, 14, was killed about 10:30 p.m. Saturday in the 1500 block of Church Street in the north suburb while he was walking from a party with friends, less than a mile from his home.
Dajae and his friends left the party just after 10 p.m.
It had been broken up by a parent after two girls were involved in a fight, Evanston Police Commander Jay Parrott said during a press conference this afternoon.
About 150 teens left the party — everyone heading east on Church Street — and more fights broke out, one involving Woodson’s cousin, according to Parrott and a spokeswoman for Cook County prosecutors.
The cousin called Woodson's family to tell them he had been jumped near Evanston Township High School and needed to be picked up, according to state's attorney spokeswoman Lisa Gordon.
Woodson’s mother, father and one of his sisters left the house and drove off, a witness told authorities. Woodson stayed behind and soon after walked out of the house to nearby Church Street, prosecutors said.
Dajae and seven friends were walking home when Woodson approached and shouted, “Which one of you bitches?” and fired, striking Dajae once in the right side of the back, prosecutors said. Police found five 9mm shell casings at the scene. The shot entered his back and exited through his chest, killing him at the scene, Parrott said.
Woodson “had taken it upon himself to retrieve a 9mm handgun and confront a group seen walking east,” Parrott said.
“That was the first group that came by and he made the assumption that that was the group that was involved,” Parrott added.
When questioned later by police, Woodson denied he had been out at the time of the shooting. But a witness contradicted him and two witnesses identified him as the shooter, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said Woodson apparently was looking for revenge when he opened fire, but neither Dajae nor his friends had anything to do with the attack on the cousin.
“Woodson has gang affiliations and this was a retaliatory act upon an innocent group of teens with no gang affiliations,” Parrott said.
After being “eyeballed at the scene” by several witnesses, Woodson was arrested Wednesday at his home and charged Thursday night with first-degree murder and aggravated discharged of a firearm. Police have not recovered the weapon, Parrott noted.
Woodson associated with the Gangster Disciples street gang, Parrott said, and has at least two prior arrests — one on drug charges and another for a weapons charge.
An Oct. 18 court appearance is scheduled in Cook County Circuit Court for possession of a controlled substance. On July 12 he was found not guilty of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, according to court records, which also show arrests for shoplifting and alcohol offenses.
Parrott also confirmed that Woodson had been wounded “within the last six months” in an Evanston shooting, but was not cooperative with police in its investigation.
"Where he's at, he deserves to be," Dajae's mother, Tiffany Rice, said of Woodson after the court hearing. "With a person like that on the street, nobody's safe. ... Somebody like that does not deserve to be walking these streets ever. Ever."
Rice said she felt "all kinds of emotion" during the hearing. "Hate, disgust, sadness, you know, all in one."
Dajae was remembered by family and friends as an honors student with a love of basketball.
Services for Dajae will be held on Saturday at First Church of God Christian Life Center, 1524 Simpson St. in Evanston. The wake will be held starting at 10 a.m., followed by the funeral service at 11 a.m.
Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl sent out an email to Evanston residents this afternoon, expressing condolences to Dajae's family, and the family of Harsha Maddula, the Northwestern student who disappeared early Saturday and whose body was found Thursday evening in Wilmette Harbor.
"It is such a tragedy to lose these two young men in such a short period of time," she said.
Evanston has set a community meeting for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Fleetwood Jourdain Community Center, 1655 Foster Street, in response to the shooting, she said.
Freelance reporter Brian L. Cox and WGN-TV contributed.
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