Shooting that killed 6-month-old likely gang retaliation, source says
BY FRANK MAIN, MITCH DUDEK, LISA DONOVAN, STEFANO ESPOSITO AND FRAN SPIELMAN Staff Reporters March 12, 2013 8:44AM
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Updated: April 14, 2013 6:19AM
As teddy bears and balloons piled up Tuesday night near the South Side spot where a 6-month-old girl was fatally shot and her father wounded, detectives continued to scour the Woodlawn neighborhood for leads.
“We don’t have one individual who is stepping up to help us,” Supt. Garry McCarthy said.
A police source said Jonathan Watkins may have been targeted in retaliation for alleged links to an earlier robbery and shooting.
“We’re not clear at this point if he’s cooperating,” McCarthy said of Watkins.
Watkins was recovering from bullet wounds at Northwestern Memorial Hospital as a funeral was planned for his daughter, Jonylah.
While police are exploring several different angles to the investigation, McCarthy said Tuesday that “there are very strong gang overtones to this event.”
Police sources say Watkins, 29, is a gang member who has been arrested 30 times, including once in 2007 police for illegal possession of a 9mm handgun, which he told police he was carrying for protection, court records show. He received a three-year prison sentence.
Police are tapping the Rev. Corey Brooks, who is acting as the Watkins family spokesman, to assist in obtaining help from hesitant family members.
On Monday afternoon, Watkins was standing on the curb in the 6500 block of South Maryland, changing his daughter’s diaper on the front passenger seat of a minivan, when a gunman emerged unnoticed from a gangway behind him and opened fire. He and Jonylah were injured. She survived emergency surgery but died Tuesday morning.
Brooks initially said Jonylah had been shot five times, but a law enforcement report indicates one bullet entered her right shoulder and exited her left buttocks.
Watkins remained hospitalized in critical condition Tuesday, with gunshot wounds to the side, buttocks and cheek, but he spoke briefly by phone with the Chicago Sun-Times.
“I was trying to help. I was trying to help. I was trying to help her,” Jonathan Watkins said in a weak voice shortly after learning that Jonylah had died.
“They told me she didn’t make it,” Watkins said, his voice cracking with emotion.
He said he has no idea who shot them, although McCarthy said it appeared that he was the “intended victim.”
Watkins recently married his wife, Judy, 20, who works at a McDonald’s restaurant. They live in Woodlawn.
Brooks, who said Jonathan Watkins has two other children from a previous relationship, met with Watkins and his wife Tuesday to pray, but he did not discuss the shooting with them. He is “pretty sedated,” Brooks said.
“I don’t know him to be in a gang,” said Brooks Tuesday night at a memorial for Jonylah.
Also on Tuesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the shooting “a senseless, despicable act of violence that is heartbreaking.”
Although the city saw homicides drop in February by 50 percent from the previous year — a trend continuing into March — Emanuel said that progress in reducing violence “is only one measure.”
Monday’s shooting was Jonylah’s second brush with gun violence. Judy Watkins was shot in the knee less than three blocks from Monday’s shooting when she was eight months pregnant with Jonylah.
Jonathan Watkins and his daughter had been visiting friends in the neighborhood when the shooting occurred, said Mary Young, the baby’s maternal grandmother.
After the shooting, the gunman ran across a vacant lot, hopped into a blue van and drove north.
On Tuesday, Ald. Willie Cochran (20th), a former Chicago Police officer, said he has taken the unprecedented step of calling on gang leaders to essentially deliver the message that, it’s OK to kill each other, but don’t kill innocent people and certainly not kids.
Cochran was joined by several other African-American aldermen and a former gang member at a City Hall news conference to condemn the murder..
“We’ve talked with some of the gang leaders, and we’ve talked about how important it is for them to not harbor offenders that they know are offenders who have committed crimes associated with innocent victims,” Cochran said. “These are acts that are carried out by people on the street. And on the street is where it has to be dealt with.”
Cochran said he never talked to the gang leaders about who shot Jonylah. He simply sought and received a “commitment” from them to pass along an important message.
“Innocent victims are unacceptable. They are out-of-bounds. They’re off-limits,” he said.
Contributing: Lisa Donovan, Fran Spielman