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Man Charged With Killing Special Education Teacher

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Updated 06/12/14 – 1:49 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – A 23-year-old man has been charged with killing a special education teacher who was felled by a stray bullet in the Chatham neighborhood last month.

Dr. Betty Howard, 58, was working her second job at a realty office near 79th Street and Evans Avenue around 5:30 p.m. May 29, when bullets pierced the wall of the building, and struck her in the head. She died less than an hour later at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Two other people also were wounded in the shooting.

Early Thursday morning, police said 23-year-old Dominique Hodrick has been charged with one count of first-degree murder, two counts of attempted murder, and three counts of aggravated battery in connection with the shooting. He was ordered held without bail at a bond hearing Thursday afternoon.

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Police said Hodrick was targeting a group of rival gang members, but shot wildly, and didn’t strike his intended target. Instead, the bullets ripped through the wall of the real estate office where Howard was working, and killed her as she worked at her desk.

One of her co-workers, a 58-year-old man, and a 23-year-old woman walking outside the building also were wounded by gunfire.

Two days after the shooting, Community activist Andrew Holmes began passing out flyers with Hodrick’s picture, identifying him as a person of interest in the shooting.

“We decided to put this flyer together, because this guy’s name was ringing hot in the community,” Holmes said.

Hodrick was arrested Tuesday, after he was found hiding out at a South Side motel.

Holmes said there’s a chance others could be arrested in the case.

“We feel that he wasn’t the only one out there. If there was anyone else out there with this individual, as he discharged that weapon, you are just as much involved in the case as he was,” Holmes said.

Special education teacher Betty Howard and her son, James Washington. (Family Photo)

Special education teacher Betty Howard and her son, James Washington. (Family Photo)

Howard headed the special education department at Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep Academy High School. At her funeral on Saturday, her brother described her as a “phenomenal” woman, and the principal of Gwendolyn Brooks said “she was education at its best.”

“The families are still healing. I did speak with the families. They’re still hurting, and they’re just waiting on what’s going to happen in the courtroom,” Holmes said.

The 58-year-old man who was wounded in the shooting said going to work each day since then has not been the same.

“There is no way to walk in here and not have the scenes come back into your head again,” he said. “It was something that I don’t think that any of the people that were forced to experience that will ever forget.”

He said his hat goes off to police who worked the case and caught Hodrick.

Kale Realty operations manager Bruce Stafford, who also was in the office at the time of the shooting, said he’s also excited a suspect has been charged.

“It was just a horrific scene, and our prayers and thoughts still go out to the family,” he said. “I’m glad justice will be brought to this horrible, horrible scene.”

Charles Owens, who operates a dentist office half a block away, said despite his 20-year presence in the area, he’s thinking of leaving the neighborhood in the wake of the shooting.

“At some time or another, with these crimes going on, I have to think about moving to another location, because they are basically running everybody out of the neighborhood,” Owens said.

Hodrick has been arrested before, but for relatively minor crimes.

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