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Suspect questioned in fatal shooting of 6-month-old Jonylah Watkins

Jonylah Watkins

Jonylah Watkins

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Updated: June 28, 2013 6:42AM

A suspect was being questioned by Chicago Police on Sunday in the fatal shooting of 6-month-old Jonylah Watkins in March, a law enforcement source said.

The man was taken into custody Saturday and was being questioned by Area Central Detectives, the source said.

Jonylah was struck by a bullet on March 11 as she sat with her father in a minivan in the 6500 block of South Maryland. Her father, Jonathan Watkins, was shot three times.

Jonylah died of her injuries a day later, but her father survived. The suspected gunman being questioned on Sunday was targeting Jonathan Watkins, the source said.

Law enforcement sources said Sunday the shooting possibly was retaliation for a burglary in which a video-gaming device was among the items stolen. The sources said police questioning the suspect in Jonylah’s killing had contacted the felony review unit of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, a required step before charges can be filed.

The Rev. Corey Brooks said late Sunday that Jonylah’s parents have been cooperating with police to find their daughter’s killer, but he insisted investigators hadn’t disclosed whether a suspect was in custody or if charges were imminent.

“They have not discussed that with us,” Brooks said, standing outside his New Beginnings Church with Jonathan Watkins and his wife, Judy — who wore a pin bearing her daughter’s picture.

Neither would comment on the unsolved slaying, but Brooks hinted that a big break in the investigation may be coming.

“We believe that someone is going to be caught really soon,” said Brooks, who has acted as a spokesman and adviser for the family since the shooting.

Jonathan Watkins hasn’t been asked by police to identify a possible gunman, Brooks said, adding that Watkins has been working with investigators to find his daughter’s killer.

“Jonathan has been very cooperative. He’s worked with the police diligently. He wants the person to be caught,” Brooks said.

He acknowledged that Watkins has a lengthy criminal history and said many people in the community were angry with him after the shooting. Brooks said he has seen a surge of support for Watkins, who he said is now working and trying to obtain his GED.

“So many people were against him,” Brooks said. “We’ve seen a lot of people get behind him.”

And he added: “I don’t know a person on this planet without a past.”

The shooting horrified Chicago and sparked renewed calls for a push to end gun violence in the city.

At her packed South Side funeral, her grandmother cried out in anguish as she pleaded for peace. “My neighbors of Chicago, what have thou done?” Mary Young told mourners. “You brought in the darkness, removed the sun. It’s now obvious the time has come when killing one another will no longer be tolerated by anyone.”

While still hospitalized after the shootings in March, Jonylah’s father told the Chicago Sun-Times in a brief telephone interview that he didn’t know who shot him and his daughter, though police said initially that he appeared to be the intended target.

And he said he tried to help his little girl after the shooting.

“I was trying to help, I was trying to help, I was trying to help her,” Watkins said just after learning that Jonylah had died.

“They told me she didn’t make it,” he said, his voice cracking.

Just after the shooting in the Woodlawn neighborhood, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said “there are very strong gang overtones to this event.”

Police sources said then that Jonathan Watkins was a gang member who had been arrested 30 times, including once in 2007 for illegal possession of a 9mm pistol, which he told police he was carrying for protection. He received a three-year prison term for that offense.

The attack happened as Watkins, who has two other children from a previous relationship, was sitting in a minivan with Jonylah. A gunman stepped out of a nearby gangway and opened fire, police said, striking Jonathan Watkins and his daughter.

The shooting attracted attention nationwide and sparked outrage that included Mayor Rahm Emanuel blasting the attack as “a senseless, despicable act of violence that is heartbreaking.”

Contribuing: Dan Rozek

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