CHICAGO (MCT) — A 26-year-old alleged gang member was charged Sunday with the shooting death of Heaven Sutton, the 7-year-old girl who was selling candy with her mother near home moments before a stray bullet struck her in the back last week.
Jerrell Dorsey was charged with first-degree murder and aggravated battery with a firearm and was ordered held without bail.
Dorsey’s lawyer, Eric Dunham, said his client was in the area when Sutton was killed but that he was not the shooter.
“It’s a tragedy. He’s scared. He’s upset,” Dunham said.
Dunham said his client was planning to turn himself in but he was arrested before he could do so.
Dorsey was taken into custody about 11 p.m. Friday night by members of the Chicago Police Department’s fugitive apprehension unit and the U.S. Marshals fugitive task force as he tried to flee from the back of a building on the 5300 block of West Galewood Avenue, according to police.
He was identified by witnesses of the gang-related shooting that sparked frustration and outrage from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other city officials who’ve been trying to control an outbreak of street violence in recent months.
“Bringing Heaven’s shooter to justice will not bring her back, but I hope it will provide some level of solace to her family,” Emanuel said in an e-mailed statement, moments after police Superintendent Garry McCarthy announced the arrest during a North Austin community meeting.
Heaven’s mother said Saturday she was indeed relieved by news of the arrest.
“I feel a little better,” said Heaven’s mother, Ashake Banks. “Maybe I can get a little rest tonight,” Banks said. “It’s a start.”
Police say tensions between two local gangs have been rising in the neighborhood.
A 19-year-old man who was shot in the ankle at the same time Heaven was killed is an alleged member of the Mafia Insane Vice Lords, who have been fighting with the Four Corner Hustlers, police say. Dorsey was charged with aggravated battery for his shooting, officials said.
Dorsey is believed to be a member of the Four Corner Hustlers, police sources say.
In recent years, he has pleaded guilty to marijuana possession and other minor crimes, records show.
On Saturday, neighbors and family friends still struggled to make sense of how the lively girl who loved to jump rope, play video games and dress in pretty clothes could be suddenly gone.
“She used to make us all laugh,” said her brother Diamante Demetrious, 12.
He had written a message to his fallen sister on a white T-shirt that read: “Love you, lil’ sis. Love, never forgotten.”
On the gate nearby, Heaven’s name was spelled in big, silver balloons and a tree was decorated with flowers, balloons and stuffed animals.
Harrington said Heaven had gone to the mall with his family the day before she was killed and came away with an assortment of goodies in her favorite color: pink sneakers, pink socks and three scoops of pink ice cream.
“She was a real ‘girly’ girl,” he said with a smile.
(Tribune reporters Carlos Sadovi, Ryan Haggerty and Jeremy Gorner contributed.)