January 11, 2008

Three charged in Cisse shooting, area crime spree

Two men have been charged in the first-degree murder of University graduate student Amadou Cisse, 29, who was slain in November. The suspects, Eric Walker, 16, and Benjamin Williams, 21, are both scheduled to appear in court today, according to Andy Conklin, a spokesperson for the Cook County State Attorney’s office. Williams is scheduled for a preliminary indictment hearing, and Walker will enter a plea, Conklin told the MAROON.

A third man, Demetrius Warren, 17, was charged for being involved in the other incidents leading up to the shooting, but was not charged with the murder.

Police say that Walker was the instigator of the attack and the three incidents that preceded it on November 19, according to the Chicago Tribune. Walker was arrested in late November and indicted on charges of first-degree murder, armed robbery, and attempted robbery. He has a previous juvenile record for drug possession, possession of a stolen vehicle, and damage to property. He is being held without bail.

Court documents state that Walker admitted to driving the car used in the shooting, two robberies, and the attempted shooting of a University staff member. Walker was inspired to commit the crimes after watching a pirated copy of American Gangster, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. Cisse was shot while reportedly resisting one of these robberies.

Warren was arrested soon after Walker and was also denied bail. Although he was not charged with Cisse’s murder, he has confessed to taking part in the crime spree leading up to the shooting. According to court filings, he instructed his “co-offenders about stopping the car to do robberies.”

He has been indicted on two counts of armed robbery and discharge of a firearm. The Tribune reported that he is currently on probation for an unrelated battery and robbery and has a juvenile record of robbery arrests.

Warren’s attorney, Sandra Bennewitz, told the Tribune that her client’s confession was “coerced.” While giving a police statement, Warren requested and was denied an attorney at least three times, Bennewitz said.

“If a kid asks for a lawyer, it’s supposed to end,” she said.

A spokesman for the Chicago Police Department (CPD) said that all proper interview procedures were followed, according to the Tribune.

Williams was arrested in mid-December and is scheduled to have a preliminary indictment hearing today. He was charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery, attempted robbery, and discharge of a firearm. Williams is accused of serving as a lookout for police during the shooting, the Sun-Times reported.

While both Walker and Williams are directly charged with Cisse’s shooting, the police have not identified one or the other as the shooter. Even though police had previously reported that there were five suspects involved, CPD News Affairs Sergeant Gene Mullins told the MAROON that the case is closed and that detectives are no longer looking for more suspects.

Police broke the case when they obtained a description of the getaway car, a Pontiac Bonneville, according to the Tribune. The car’s two red doors on the driver’s side were caught on a U of C Hospitals video surveillance camera. After detectives identified a probable escape route, they found a police camera with a better view of the car. The vehicle was traced to one of Walker’s neighbors, who said he routinely loaned Walker the car in return for cash.

University spokesperson Julie Peterson lauded both the CPD’s and U of C Police Department’s handling of the case.

“The level of cooperation between the Chicago Police Department and the University police has been outstanding, and we’re pleased at the diligence with which the police have pursued this investigation,” Peterson said in an e-mail interview. “Sadly, this is a double tragedy since we not only lost a promising graduate student in Amadou Cisse, but also have seen the lives of these young men changed forever by their actions.”