CHICAGO (CBS) – A 19-year-old man has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of 10-year-old Lena Nunez in late June.
Chicago Police Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan said Christopher Lara was identified as the getaway driver in Lena’s murder, and detectives are still searching for the shooter.
Lena was visiting her grandmother at an apartment near Dickens and Drake avenues on June 27, when she was hit by a stray bullet that pierced a second-floor window around 9:30 p.m. She was taken to Stroger Hospital in critical condition, and died the next day.
Deenihan said Lena’s father was standing outside the garage of the home at the time, gathered with a group of gang members, when someone from a rival gang opened fire on them from three-quarters of a block away, and a stray bullet ended up killing Lena.
Although there were no eyewitnesses to the shooting, due to how far away the shooter was from his intended targets, Deenihan said neighbors were able to help detectives track down the getaway car.
Deenihan said officers canvassed the neighborhood after the shooting, and learned from neighbors that a suspicious vehicle was driving around the area at the time of the shooting. Several people allowed detectives to review home surveillance footage of the vehicle.
Detectives used camera footage and other technology to track down the getaway car, and identify Lara as the person who was driving it at the time of the shooting. He was arrested, and refused to cooperate with detectives, but Deenihan said police and prosecutors were able to secure murder charges against him.
“There’s video that shows this car circling the area pretty slowly, so pretty obviously looking for someone to shoot, and so he knew what he was doing, and all the video corroborates that,” Deenihan said.
Deenihan said Lara dropped of the shooter before the attack, and then picked him up and drove him away from the scene.
“He’s a member of the gang, and this is kind of what he does, what he does for the gang. Specifically, in this incident, this is exactly what he did for the gang on that night. He chose to be the driver for this incident,” Deenihan said.
Police said Lara is due to appear in bond court Thursday afternoon.
It’s the third time this week police have announced murder charges in the shooting death of a child.
On Tuesday, 39-year-old Darrell Johnson was charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of 9-year-old Janari Ricks, who killed Friday evening while playing outside in the Cabrini Green neighborhood.
Prosecutors have said witnesses saw Johnson “hunting” for someone to shoot, when he opened fire and killed Ricks outside the Cabrini Rowhouses on the 900 block of North Cambridge Avenue.
Ricks’ family said they knew Darrell Johnson because he grew up in the area and he had a distinctive limp. Prosecutors said it was actually that old injury from a shooting that gave him away. He’s being held with no bond.
Also on Tuesday, 30-year-old Terrell Boyd, of Racine, Wisconsin, was charged with first-degree murder in the July 4th shooting death of Natalia Wallace. He is the third man charged in the case, and police are searching for a fourth suspect.
Police and prosecutors have said Natalia was playing in her grandmother’s front yard on the 100 block of North Latrobe Avenue shortly after 7 p.m. on July 4, when four men pulled up in a white Subaru Legacy, and three passengers got out and started shooting.
The shooting was apparent retaliation for a June 29 shooting that killed one of Boyd’s brothers, prosecutors said during Boyd’s bond hearing. Police and prosecutors said the suspects are purported gang members who believed the gunman who killed Boyd’s brother lived on the same block of Latrobe as Natalia’s grandmother.
Boyd and the other two men charged in Natalia’s shooting death are being held without bail.