Cisse murder suspects plead not guilty

By Mischa Fierer

The four youths charged with the November murder of U of C graduate student Amadou Cisse pleaded not guilty in Cook County Criminal Court last Tuesday.

State prosecutors have charged Demetrius Warren, 17; Jamal Bracey, 17; Benjamin Williams, 21; and Eric Walker, 16, with killing Cisse during an attempted robbery and crime spree.

Warren allegedly pulled the trigger, firing a bullet into Cisse’s chest, the Chicago Tribune reported. If convicted, he will face a minimum of 40 years in prison.

Cisse, 29, was shot to death on November 18 during a robbery attempt outside his residence on the 6100 block of South Ellis Avenue.

Prosecutors allege that Cisse’s murder took place amid a Hyde Park crime spree committed by the suspects.

The event sparked increased efforts by the University to raise campus and neighborhood safety, adding police officers to the streets and hiring an independent security agency.

Born in Senegal, Cisse was three weeks from presenting his graduate thesis at the time of his death.

“I don’t see him asking an eye for an eye,” wrote Ariane Beldi, a close friend of Cisse’s when they were both undergraduates at Bates College, in an e-mail interview. “He would probably be extremely sad that such young men would destroy another life and their own in the process.”

Although she has not seen Cisse in nine years, the circumstances of Cisse’s death were especially poignant because of a detail that she knew about Cisse.

“I also remember with a pang that he had made it a principle not to have more money on him than he needed for the day,” she said.

“He would go around with an empty wallet. He didn’t want to succumb to the temptation of buying useless stuff,” she added.