Scene outside school

Thursday's fatal shooting took place near International Prep Academy in Champaign. A few staff members and students were in the building at 1605 W. Kirby Ave. at the time.

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CHAMPAIGN — A 17-year-old ambushed by a group of masked shooters has become the 12th homicide victim of the year in Champaign.

Champaign County Coroner Duane Northrup identified the victim as Jonathon McPhearson of Champaign. An autopsy on him was scheduled for Friday.

Police were called at 5:34 p.m. Thursday to the 1500 block of West Kirby Avenue, where they found Mr. McPhearson  shot in the torso.

Officers administered first aid at the scene, but the teen died a short time later at the hospital.

Police said the preliminary investigation indicates Mr. McPhearson was sitting alongside the road with another individual when multiple masked suspects approached on foot and fired on them, hitting the victim.

A message to Champaign school district families from Superintendent Shelia Boozer said the shooting happened near International Prep Academy and that the victim was a Unit 4 high school student.

Boozer said the incident did not happen on school property but that there were a few staff members and students in the building at 1605 W. Kirby Ave. when the shots were fired. All were safe.

“We are committed to supporting our Unit 4 family, and resources will be available for anyone who was impacted by this incident,” Boozer said.

Police ask any resident or business in that area with exterior surveillance camera systems to share that footage.

There have been more than 200 confirmed reports of shots fired in Champaign this year, eclipsing last year’s record of 189.

Police ask that anyone who has additional information to please contact the department at 217-351-4545. Arrangements can be made for information to be shared privately. Anyone wishing to remain anonymous may also submit tips to Champaign County Crime Stoppers at 217-373-8477, or via the free “P3 Tips” mobile app.

Crime Stoppers will pay up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest of the persons responsible for this crime.


Mary Schenk is a reporter covering police, courts and breaking news at The News-Gazette. Her email is, and you can follow her on Twitter (@schenk).

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