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Back of the Yards Gunmen Wanted Revenge for Earlier Shooting: Authorities

By  Mark Konkol Quinn Ford and Erin Meyer | September 24, 2013 8:29am | Updated on September 24, 2013 2:13pm

 Four men were charged in the shooting that wounded 13.
Four Men Charged in Back of the Yards Shooting
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BACK OF THE YARDS — Bryon Champ wanted revenge.

The 21-year-old Blackstones gang member had been shot in the leg Thursday by a rival gang member, and instead of reporting the shooting to police, he went looking to retaliate, authorities said.

Armed with an assault rifle and joined by several of his friends, Champ went to Cornell Square Park on Thursday night with one goal in mind: to shoot any Gangster Disciples in sight, authorities said.

Once there, he and another man unleashed a torrent of gunfire into a crowd gathered at a basketball tournament. By the time it was over, 13 people were hurt, including a 3-year-old boy with a hole in his face.

Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy and prosecutors painted that vivid picture Tuesday as they detailed the charges against four men they said were behind the attack that put the city on edge and back in the national spotlight for street violence.

 A 3-year-old boy was shot in his face.
Boy Wounded in Mass Shooting
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And while praising police for arresting the men just days after the shooting, authorities lamented a crime they said could have been avoided.

Champ, the "main player" in the shooting, had been convicted of gun possession as a felon last year. A judge sent him to boot camp, instead of the mandatory three years in prison that McCarthy's been advocating for gun crimes all year as Chicago has continued to struggle with gun violence.

“If Bryon Champ is not on the street — as he shouldn’t have been — this incident likely does not occur," McCarthy said. “He received boot camp for that gun crime and was back out on the streets to be a part of this senseless shooting."

A Cook County judge on Tuesday afternoon ordered the four men charged in the case, including 21-year-old Champ, held without bail.

Tabari Young, 22; Brad Jett, 22; and Kewane Gatewood, 20, were charged along with Champ with three counts of attempted murder and three counts of aggravated battery with a firearm.

Additional charges in the case may come — both for the four arrested and others — McCarthy said.

"We are not done in any way, shape or form," McCarthy said.

The investigation was led by the same detectives who oversaw the Hadiya Pendleton and Jonylah Watkins cases, the highest-profile murders in Chicago so far this year.

Community cooperation helped, but the best leads came from officers stationed at Tilden Career Community Academy, 4747 S. Union Ave., who heard what students were saying in the hallways about the shooting. That led to charges being issued Monday night and Tuesday morning.

"That chatter was able to be refined by the officers and passed on to the detectives," McCarthy said.

Before the park shooting, Champ had told his fellow gang members about being shot and asked Gatewood to retrieve an AK-47-style assault rifle that Gatewood had been stashing under his bed for Champ for a few months, prosecutors said.

Jett and another person who has yet to be charged went looking for rival gang members and found them in the park, prosecutors said.

Champ, Young and Jett rode in one car, while a second car came along to give the shooters protection from police and Gangster Disciples, prosecutors said.

As Jett played lookout in a gangway, Champ began firing with the assault rifle, and Young fired shots from a .22-caliber revolver. Before they were done 13 people — ages 3 to 41 — were shot on the basketball court, prosecutors said.

The three then ran back to the car and drove off, stashing the guns at a house, prosecutors said. They were later moved and have yet to be recovered, prosecutors said.

In all, 14 shell casings from an assault rife were found at the scene.

Anand Sundaram, a public defender representing the four accused, said police did not recover any guns from the defendants, and the substance of whatever statements they made to police remains unknown.

"That's very vague information," Sundaram said after a brief bond hearing.

"It was very hectic," he said, imagining the scene when bullets rang out in the park. "It was basically a melee. It would be hard to imagine [a witness] making a good" identification.

In court, Sundaram said Gatewood is studying at culinary school; Champ is a single father and janitor who graduated from South Shore High School; Young buses tables; and Jett works at a Home Depot as a stocker and has mental health problems.

Neighbors and family of the accused said they were in disbelief Tuesday morning after learning of the arrests.

Young's mother declined to comment on the shooting, but neighbors said they believed police arrested the wrong men.

Darnell Jackson, a neighbor who knew Young and Gatewood, said he believes police rushed to charge the men with the crime.

"Everybody on the block was crying last night over these boys," Jackson said.

Jackson said he was especially surprised to see Gatewood was charged. Jackson said he knows Gatewood as a quiet guy who attends classes at Kennedy-King College. When he is not in class, Gatewood is playing basketball at Cornell Square Park, Jackson said.

Neighbor Marshall Dukes, who said he has known Gatewood since the accused was a boy, echoed his belief that Gatewood was not the type of person to be involved with the shooting.

But Dukes said whoever did the shooting should be punished.

"Somebody did it," he said. "Whoever did it they need to lock them up and throw away the key."

Semehca Nunn, the grandmother of 3-year-old Deonta' Howard, who was injured in the shooting, said she was relieved to hear about the arrests.

"I am glad. I am so glad," Nunn said. "They'll never see the streets again."