URBANA — A Champaign County judge on Thursday ordered that a Champaign teen with a lengthy criminal history be tried as an adult on charges stemming from an alleged shooting in Urbana, an alleged burglary at a Campustown sorority house and the alleged battery of two correctional officers.
Judge Tom Difanis said some of the acts allegedly perpetrated by Davarion Epps, 17, were committed in an “aggressive and premeditated manner” and resulted in bodily harm to the correctional officers.
Instead of proceeding with a petition to have Epps prosecuted as a habitual juvenile offender, State’s Attorney Julia Rietz sought to have Epps’ juvenile cases transferred to adult court, arguing that the juvenile justice system is no longer able to serve his needs.
Difanis read aloud from the statutory criteria that ask if a minor can be rehabilitated before he ages out of the juvenile system and remarked that the answer in Epps’ case is “a resounding no.”
To support her request, Rietz put on evidence from Urbana police Detective Doug Pipkins, who said police believe that Epps was the person who allegedly fired shots from a moving car at three young men in the 1000 block of Smith Road in Urbana about 2:45 p.m. June 17.
Pipkins said officers found holes and a bullet inside an apartment that was hit in the area where the trio had been walking. Although five people were inside the apartment, none was hurt by gunfire. None of the three young men outside was hit either.
The trio that had been shot at named Epps as the shooter, Pipkins said, and identified a blue Toyota as the car he had been driving.
Three days later, on June 20, the detective said another Urbana police officer spotted that blue car at an apartment complex backed into a spot. Epps and three females were inside the car getting ready to smoke cannabis, he said. The officer determined that the car had been reported stolen from Champaign.
In the car, the officer found two live rounds of ammunition and identification from a woman whose car had been broken into on June 19 in the 1800 block of Alder Lane in Champaign.
Champaign police Detective Cully Schweska, who investigated that burglary, testified that the woman’s car window was shattered by a rock and her purse stolen.
Schweska said the Toyota that Epps was found in had been stolen between June 16 and 17 from a driveway in the 500 block of North McKinley Avenue in Champaign.
Schweska said neither victim knew Epps nor gave him permission to be in their respective vehicles.
A subsequent search of Epps’ bedroom in his home in the 1300 block of North Neil Street turned up full-metal-jacket ammunition that matched the bullets found in the stolen car, Schweska said.
Schweska said Champaign police also had video surveillance footage showing Epps as one of three men who entered the Alpha Xi Delta sorority, 313 Chalmers St., C, about 3:30 a.m. June 20. He was wearing shoes that appeared to be the same as the ones he had on when arrested by Urbana police later that same night, Schweska said.
Finally, Juvenile Detention Center Superintendent Keith Willis testified that Epps allegedly attacked one male correctional officer about 5:10 p.m. on June 29, hitting him in the face with closed fists three different times during a pursuit inside the detention center. That officer sustained a cut to the face that required 11 stitches and a chipped tooth.
A second officer who came to the aid of his co-worker was also struck in the face with a fist by Epps, according to Willis. The punches broke his nasal cavity and he had to have six stitches to repair cuts to his face.
Both officers missed three days of work as a result of their injuries, Willis said.
Willis also testified that before his arrest, Epps was seen on a June 19 Facebook Live feed brandishing a semi-automatic handgun. The feed was initiated at the detention center on a cellphone brought in — in violation of the center’s policy — by a woman visiting her son. Epps allegedly joined in the broadcast with the mother and son, showing off a gun.
After granting the transfer to adult court, Difanis then arraigned Epps on five felony counts: residential burglary on June 20 to the sorority; aggravated battery on June 29 to the two correctional officers; aggravated discharge of a firearm for the June 17 shooting on Smith Road; and possession of a stolen vehicle for having the Toyota in Urbana on June 20.
After hearing the evidence and a recitation of Epps’ juvenile record: eight convictions since 2013 for aggravated battery, criminal damage to property, residential burglary, possession of a stolen vehicle and burglary — Difanis set his bond at $750,000 and ordered that he remain in the detention center until a Sept. 10 court hearing.