Man says he was never in Champaign

URBANA - A Chicago man accused of fatally shooting a man in Champaign in 1992 denied in his initial court appearance that he was here then or any other time.

Omar Peterson, also known as Omar Johnson, 26, was arraigned Thursday in Champaign County Circuit Court in Urbana on two counts of first-degree murder, each accusing him of fatally shooting Patrick Haymon on July 9, 1992.

?I've never been here before in my life,? Peterson told Judge Heidi Ladd. The judge warned him that any statements he made could be used against him and asked him only if he understood the charges, not whether he agreed with them.

Court records show that a warrant was issued in 1992 charging Omar Johnson with Mr. Haymon's murder. That warrant was quashed and a new warrant issued for Omar Peterson on April 10 this year, according to the records.

Champaign police said last week that Peterson was arrested April 10 at a fast-food restaurant in Chicago. Information at the time of the murder indicated Omar Johnson shot Mr. Haymon, police said. The case was given another look recently as police detectives obtained a tip through Crimestoppers that Johnson was living in Chicago under the name Peterson.

Assistant State's Attorney Donna Miller said in court Thursday that the shooting stemmed from a turf struggle between rival drug gangs from Chicago.

Mr. Haymon, who went by the street name ?Boe,? was brought to Champaign by one drug dealer, Jimmy Hannah, to sell drugs, while Peterson, known then as Johnson, was brought to Champaign by another drug dealer, according to Miller.

Peterson approached Mr. Haymon at 402 E. Beardsley Ave. about 7:40 p.m. July 9, 1992, and the two men had an argument about drugs stolen from Peterson, Miller said. Peterson pulled out a handgun and fired shots, she said.

Mr. Haymon, 22, also of Chicago, was pronounced dead at 1:30 a.m. July 10 at Carle Foundation Hospital. Autopsy results at the time showed Mr. Haymon had been shot once through the left arm and once in the chest. The fatal shot to the chest went through both lungs and his pulmonary artery.

Miller said Peterson was first taken to the Charter House, a former hotel in Urbana where University Auto is now located, and then back to Chicago.

Peterson would have been 15 years old at the time of the shooting. In answer to a question from Judge Ladd, Miller said that Peterson was excluded from the Juvenile Court Act because of his age and because the crime was murder. The judge set his bond at $1 million.

Peterson is due to appear in court again for a preliminary hearing May 13.

Two years after Mr. Haymon's murder, Jimmy Lee ?Gym Shoes? Hannah, 24, was fatally shot Dec. 23, 1994, near the corner of Sixth and Washington streets. Six men were charged with the murder. Two were given immunity in exchange for their testimony, two were convicted in a trial in 1995, one pleaded guilty and the sixth was acquitted of the charges.

State prison records show Omar Peterson has a long criminal record and was in prison or jail much of the time since Mr. Haymon's shooting. Records also showed he was still on parole for a two-year prison sentence last year on drug charges in Cook County.

You can reach Steve Bauer at (217) 351-5318 or via e-mail at sbauer@news-gazette.com.

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