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Darrell Johnson, 39, Charged In Murder Of 9-Year-Old Janari Ricks

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A 39-year-old man has been charged with murder in the shooting death of 9-year-old Janari Ricks, who was shot and killed Friday evening while playing outside in the Cabrini Green neighborhood.

Darrell Johnson, of the Brighton Park neighborhood, was arrested Sunday, after he was identified as the gunman opened fire on a group of people behind the townhomes on the 900 block of North Cambridge Avenue on Friday, shooting Janari in the back.

Janari was taken to Lurie Children's Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Johnson has been charged with one count of first-degree murder, and was ordered held without bail Tuesday afternoon.

Darrell Johnson
Darrell Johnson is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 9-year-old Janari Ricks. (Source: Chicago Police)

Police have credited neighbors in Cabrini Green with helping identify Johnson as Janari's killer.

"This is the best example of a community coming forward," Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said Monday, when police first announced a suspect was in custody.

Prosecutors said at least two witnesses identified Johnson as the man who shot Janari, a third saw him "wobbling/skipping down the alley" shortly before the shooting, and another reported seeing him limping away in an alley after the shooting. According to prosecutors, Johnson walks with a limp after being shot in his left leg years ago.

CPD Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan said investigators also reviewed surveillance video footage in the case. However, he said the most important factor has been help from the community.

"All of the video in the world, and all the hard work of the detectives, we're not able to arrest the suspect unless the community comes forward and actually helps us. In this case they did. We were able to make a speedy arrest," Deenihan said.

Cook County prosecutors said surveillance video from the scene shows Janari running away from Johnson as he opened fire, and collapsing to the ground after being shot in the back.

Other surveillance video from a nearby alley shows Johnson walking through an alley before the shooting, peering through a fence into the courtyard at the Cabrini Rowhouses, as if looking for someone. He was also caught on video hurriedly limping away from the scene.

According to prosecutors, Johnson spent four years in prison for a 2005 conviction on carjacking and weapons charges, and served two years' probation for a 2002 conviction for aggravated battery.

Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) said Monday it appears neither the shooter nor his intended target live in Cabrini Green, although they grew up there.

"The violence did not come from people who live in the rowhouses. The violence came from  people who come over to the rowhouses and do their dirt. We need to keep these people out of our neighborhood," Burnett said. "That's why so many people stepped up to the plate to talk about who did this, because they want peace down there. They want to live in peace. They want their kids to be able to play. They have playgrounds in the back yard. They want their kids to be able to play in the back yards. They want them to be safe."

Janari Ricks
(Credit: Jalisa Ford)

Brown called Janari "a bright beloved athletic soon-to-be fourth grader, who loved math and basketball."

"Now, instead of planning for his future, Janari's parents are arranging their child's funeral," he added. "Bringing this little boy's killer to justice is the top priority of the Chicago Police Department."

Janari is the fifth child age 10 or younger to be shot and killed in Chicago this year.

On Saturday, Janari's mother, Jalisa Ford, described her final conversation with her child to reporters, including CBS 2's Marissa Parra.

"He says, 'Mom, can I come outside and play?' and I said, 'Sure,'" Ford said Saturday. "And when he went out, he never came back home."

Good at sports, good at math, and loved by everyone, Janari was on his way to the gifted program. But Ford's only child will now forever stay a memory in Cabrini-Green – yet another child in Chicago robbed of his future.

"I'm not mad at nobody. I just need answers on why," Ford said. "When is it going to stop?"

Friends and family stopped by a makeshift memorial at the Cabrini Rowhouses Monday night, as they continued to pay their respects to Janari's family. The candles and images reflect a young life lost Friday.

Days later, they remain at the scene of the crime and the grief remains just as strong.

Dwayne Ford is Janari's cousin. The young boy was playing outside his home near Cambridge Avenue and Pearson Street when shots were fired, taking his life. Three days later, Ford and other family members learned police made an arrest.

"It's a little comforting to know some action has been taken," Ford said. "And if it's the person they have, we want justice."

In addition to Janari, the other four children age 10 or younger who were shot and killed in Chicago this year include:

  • On July 4th, 7-year-old Natalia Wallace was shot in the head while playing in her grandmother's front yard in the South Austin neighborhood. Police and prosecutors say a group of gunmen opened fire on the 100 block of North Latrobe Avenue, in apparent retaliation for an earlier shooting that killed a brother of one of the shooters. Three men have been charged with murder in Natalia's death, and police are searching for a fourth suspect.
  • On June 28th, 10-year-old Lena Nunez was killed when a stray bullet pierced the window of an apartment in Logan Square, as a group of men apparently was shooting at someone else on the street outside.
  • On June 27th, 1-year-old Sincere Gaston was shot and killed while riding home from the laundromat with his mother in Englewood. His mother was also grazed by a bullet. Police have said the shooter may have been targeting Sincere's father, who was not in the car.
  • On June 20th, 3-year-old Mekhi James was shot in the back while riding in his stepfather's SUV on the 600 block of North Central Avenue. He was taken to the hospital in serious condition, but later was pronounced dead. Police have said the shooter was targeting the 27-year-old stepfather.


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