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Teen Slain After Van Got Stuck in Pothole, Prosecutors Say

By  Erica Demarest and Erin Meyer | March 3, 2014 7:58am | Updated on March 3, 2014 2:02pm

 Deandre Baber, 18, was shot to death early Sunday as he tried to retrieve his van that got stuck in a pothole in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood.
Deandre Baber
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WEST ENGLEWOOD — An 18-year-old was shot to death in Auburn Gresham early Sunday after his van got stuck in a pothole and several gang members on the street picked a fight, police and prosecutors said.

Deandre Baber was heading home from a night out with his brother and cousin when their van got stuck in a pothole in the 8000 block of South Elizabeth Street about 1:30 a.m.

As Baber tried to push the van, prosecutors said, a party bus apparently carrying drunken gang members showed up. Several of the men on the bus began yelling at Baber's group, asking them what gang they belonged to and why they were on the street, police said.

Men on the bus began breaking the van's windows, and a fight broke out, according to authorities.

When police arrived, several of the partygoers ran into nearby residences. Officers drove Baber and his relatives away from the scene, police said, leaving the van behind. But when the group returned for their van about an hour later, someone on the street opened fire.

Baber was shot in the back of his head about 2:40 a.m. and pronounced dead on the scene at 2:58 a.m.

"They weren't doing nothing but getting stuck in a neighborhood they weren't familiar with," said Baber's father, Deangelo Baber. 

"The guys in the neighborhood started an issue with them — about them not belonging in the neighborhood — and it escalated."

Police said Deandre Baber was in a gang, but his family denied the claim, insisting the teen wasn't into guns or violence.

On Monday, 22-year-old Brion Dowdell was charged with first-degree murder after multiple witnesses identified him as the shooter, prosecutors said. Dowdell was ordered held without bail by a Cook County judge during a brief court hearing.

Dowdell, of the 8300 block of South Justine Street, was arrested 30 minutes after the shooting.

As news of the shooting spread Sunday morning, friends and neighbors dropped by the Baber family's West Englewood home in the 7300 block of South Winchester Avenue.

"It shouldn't have happened, but it did," said Deandre Baber's grandfather, Clarence Birge, as he fought tears. "I would've told him to go back in the morning. I could've gotten the van for them."

Visitors remembered Deandre Baber as quiet, "good-spirited" and handsome. At 6-foot-2, he was athletic and a ladies' man, family said — someone who was more likely to lead than follow.

"He was real respectable," a family friend said. "He'd only speak when he was spoken to."

The teen had attended Bogan Computer Technical High School and was "just like every other teenager," his father said.

"He had no hate for nobody or no one. He just wanted to live," Deangelo Baber said, adding that he prayed for his son's safety daily.

"My son, my baby, was a victim of a crime," he said. "But you know, it happens every day. It could've been anyone around here. It could've been me. ... It's sad, but that's just every day. Every day."