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Four Men Charged in Chicago Mass Shooting

Two more suspects have been charged in last week's mass shooting at a park in the Back of Yards neighborhood, including a 22-year-old man identified as the gunman, according to police.

The latest charges, filed early this morning, bring to four the number of people charged in connection with the shooting at Cornell Square Park last Thursday that wounded 13 people, including a 3-year-old boy who was shot in the face.

Tabari Young and Brad Jett, both 22, are charged with attempted murder and aggravated battery with a firearm, authorities said. Both were arrested in an abandoned building three blocks from the shooting on Sunday night.

Young "was identified as the person who shot 3-year-old Deonta Howard and 12 other victims," according to the arrest report. Jett "was identified as of the individuals who participated in the shooting," the report said.

On Monday, Bryon Champ, 21, and Kewane Gatewood, 20, both of Chicago, were also charged with attempted murder and aggravated battery with a firearm. Chicago police said the two "played significant roles" in the shooting.

A law enforcement source said Champ and Gatewood helped transport the weapon used in the shooting to the scene. Another source said the shooting was in retaliation after one of the suspects had been grazed earlier in a gang conflict in Back of the Yards.

Police identified Champ as a convicted felon and a documented street gang member. He was convicted of unlawful use of a weapon by a felon in July 2012 and was sentenced to boot camp at the Cook County Department of Corrections.

Wounded boy improving

The break in the case came as the youngest victim of the mass shooting was making a quick recovery, walking around his hospital room and even refusing to take off his brand-new blue Nikes when he sleeps.

On Monday, the mother of Deonta Howard told the Tribune that her 3-year-old son was expected to go home in a few days despite being shot in the cheek. His face and right eye remain swollen, but he is eager to leave Mount Sinai Children's Hospital, said Shamarah Leggett, 24.

Leggett said her son will later need reconstructive plastic surgery. He had been scheduled to start preschool Monday, she said in an interview outside the hospital.

"He just keep saying, 'Ma, they shot me, they shot me with a gun. You heard me, mama?' And I say, 'Yeah, I heard you.' But I just say, 'You OK. You a big boy. You a soldier.' "

At least one gunman armed with a "military grade" rifle opened fire at a basketball court at Cornell Square Park about 10:15 p.m. Thursday. Police said it was a miracle that none of the 13 victims were killed.

Shell casings found around the blood-soaked basketball court in the 1800 block of West 51st Street were of the kind typically ejected from AK-47 rifles. Though gun violence long has plagued the city's impoverished neighborhoods, offenders almost never use military-style weapons.

Leggett said she was with her son at the park as he played basketball Thursday night. As shots rang out, people fell to the ground, either to take cover or because they were hit, she said.

As Leggett looked up, she saw her son's face covered in blood. "He wasn't crying," she recalled Monday. "And I said, 'Baby, be still because you got a big hole in your face.' "

She fears he'll now be too frightened to go to a park again.

"I don't think he ever gonna, you know, feel safe in a park," she said. "'Cause he always say he want to go to the park. He say, 'I don't wanna go on the baby swing, I wanna go on the big people swing.' ... But since he been talking, he hasn't said anything about a park. He just wanna go home."

While she called her neighborhood tightknit, Leggett said the shooting has left her pondering a move to the suburbs so her sons can grow up in a more "peaceful" environment. Her brother, Jerome Howard, 21, was fatally shot in the Woodlawn neighborhood earlier this month, she said.

"Everybody that got shot (Thursday), we like a family. You know? We was all up at the park together. We either live next door to each other or downstairs from each other or you know across the alley or around the corner."

Deonta has started eating cereal and other solid foods again, said Curtis Harris, who is engaged to Deonta's grandmother and was himself wounded in the thigh in Thursday's shooting.

Copyright 2013 - Chicago Tribune

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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