Fatal bombing, gang link suspected

Chicago Sun-Times,  Mar 13, 2001  by FRANK MAIN

A turf battle over drugs in a West Side neighborhood may have led to the fatal weekend shooting of a suspected gang member and a retaliatory arson that killed a 4-year-old boy hours later, police sources said Monday.

Investigators were looking into whether the rivalry between the Four Corner Hustlers and the Traveling Vice Lords fueled the 11:30 a.m. Saturday shooting of 24-year-old Thomas Dean in the 1100 block of North Parkside.

About 12 hours later, someone tossed a firebomb through the front window of a home in the 1300 block of North Parkside, killing 4-year- old Armon Kendley and injuring his great-grandmother Thelma Abrams, 71, and Javon Binford, 23, a cousin of the boy's mother.

Police sources said they believe the arson was retaliation for the killing of Dean, who they suspect was a member of the Four Corner Hustlers, a loose affiliate of the Vice Lords vying for control of drug sales on the street.

Those sources said suspects were being questioned in both incidents Monday, but police did not announce charges.

Residents said they were concerned about the recent violence, which also has included a March 3 firebombing about a half-mile away. A family of six escaped unharmed after someone tossed a Molotov cocktail through a window.

"This is organized crime, this is not gangbanging," said Marvis Seals of the Northwest Austin Council, which is planning a community meeting at 7:30 tonight at 5730 W. Division to urge police and residents to put a lid on the attacks. "This is just like Al Capone when he ran bootleg liquor."

The release of some gang leaders from prison may have intensified the power struggle over drugs, Seals said.

Willie Earl Lloyd, 50, a past leader of another Vice Lords branch- the Unknown Vice Lords-was released early from federal prison Feb. 22 after serving most of his 96-month sentence on a 1994 firearms conviction, investigators said.

But police sources close to the investigation of Saturday's firebombing and shooting on Parkside said they don't believe Lloyd, who was previously convicted of killing a police officer in Iowa, is involved in the latest West Side power struggle.

Pat Camden, spokesman for the Chicago Police Department, said investigators were still trying to determine whether the arsonist had targeted the wrong house Saturday night.

"They could very well be related," Camden said of the shooting and the arson. "That is one of the theories being looked at. But the investigation is continuing."

A celebration of Armon Kendley's life is scheduled from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday at the New Greater St. John Community Missionary Baptist Church, 3101 W. Warren. A funeral service will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday.

"Our church has lost a wonderful, outstanding, colorful little kid that we loved," said the Rev. Leroy Elliott, the church pastor. "He would sing, and as he would sing a gospel song he would be lifted up. His face would light up like the light he was. He would have a smile everywhere and for whoever he would meet, and he would just run and hug whoever it may be."


Chicago Sun-Times,  Mar 17, 2001  by FRANK MAIN

Brown said she didn't recognize the names of the alleged attackers, but she did know the man whose fatal shooting sparked the retaliation, Thomas Dean, 24.

"Thomas was my friend," she said. "I can't believe they would do this to me. I'm glad they caught them."

Police said they have a suspect in Dean's shooting but have not made an arrest. The suspect had visited the firebombed home but didn't live there, police said.

Dean was gunned down outside a car at 11:30 a.m. March 10 in the 1100 block of Parkside, and two women in the car were wounded.

At 10:50 p.m. that night, Burks firebombed the brick bungalow in the 1300 block of Parkside, killing Armon and injuring his great- grandmother Thelma Abrams, 71, and Javon Binford, 23, a cousin of Atrina Brown, police said.

The violence stemmed from a turf battle over drugs between the Four Corner Hustlers and Traveling Vice Lords street gangs, police said. "There has been bad blood between the two," Mahnke said.

Three gang members out for revenge picked the wrong address when they firebombed a West Side bungalow and killed a 4-year-old boy, police said Friday.

The suspects gave videotaped confessions saying they were retaliating for the March 10 killing of a fellow gang member, Area 5 police Cmdr. Gerard Mahnke said.

The men mistakenly thought the shooter lived in the 1300 block of North Parkside, Mahnke said.

Jacky J. Burks, 21, allegedly tossed a Molotov cocktail through the front window that night, hoping the targeted gang member would run outside where they could shoot him.

Instead, he wound up killing 4-year-old Armon Kendley, who just celebrated his birthday and was supposed to start preschool last week, police said.

"It's a terrible feeling to be homeless and have your baby gone," his mother, Atrina Brown, 22, said as the charges were announced Friday.

 Sgt. Michael C. Gerhardstein said police also have physical evidence linking the suspects to the firebombing.

Donnell T. Hayes, 23, and Michael E. Boyce, 21, were arrested Wednesday, and Burks was picked up Thursday, police said. They are charged with murder, aggravated arson and attempted murder. All have been convicted of narcotics offenses.

"You wonder what our young men are thinking about when they do atrocious acts like this," said Police Supt. Terry Hillard, who praised the department's detective, bomb and arson and patrol divisions for making the arrests.

The firebombing prompted a Friday night march calling for an end to gang activity in the neighborhood.

"The tragic and horrific death of 4-year-old Armon Kendley is another step, another escalation, of the violence in our community," Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) said.