URBANA — A Champaign teen-ager who was present in an Urbana home in May when a toddler was fatally shot by his uncle has pleaded guilty to a weapons offense.
Dequan D. Fenderson, 17, who listed an address in the 200 block of East Clark Street, faces penalties ranging from probation to one to three years in prison when Champaign County Judge Harry Clem sentences him in January.
Fenderson pleaded guilty Thursday to possession of a handgun, admitting that between April 27 and May 16 he possessed a .25-caliber handgun.
State's Attorney Julia Rietz said it was that gun that another youth, who is now 15, pointed in the direction of his 3-year-old nephew, Mekhi Woods, and fired, hitting the youth in the head. The toddler died later that day.
The shooting occurred about 3:50 p.m. at 905 E. Pennsylvania Ave., U. At the time, Fenderson was staying in the home part of the time.
Fenderson ran from the house after the shooting. The distraught youth remained there, carrying the mortally wounded boy out of the house and putting him into the arms of a girl in the neighborhood. Police got Mekhi from the girl, then had to persuade the youth to put the gun down and not harm himself.
In his initial statement to Urbana police, the youth didn't mention that Fenderson had been present. Later, he told police that Fenderson was there and that Fenderson had removed the clip from the gun thinking that would make it safe. However, neither had accounted for the round left in the chamber.
Fenderson came to the Urbana police department later on the day of the shooting to be interviewed and told police he had no idea where the gun had come from. Police obtained a cell phone from Fenderson. They analyzed it and found pictures of Fenderson holding a gun that appeared to be the same gun used to kill Mekhi to a girl's head.
Also in the room where Mekhi was shot, police found a pair of jeans that were Fenderson's size that had under a gram of crack cocaine in the pocket.
A charge of possession of a controlled substance was dismissed as part of Fenderson's plea. The state also agreed not to revoke the probation he was on in a juvenile case in which he was adjudicated a delinquent minor for aggravated battery.
The second youth has been charged in juvenile court with involuntary manslaughter and possession of weapons in connection with the death of his nephew, but his case before Judge Heidi Ladd was recently continued to Jan. 3 while he continues to receive residential treatment for substance abuse and emotional issues.