CHAMPAIGN — A 14-year-old boy has died and a second teen was injured as a result of an early morning shooting Saturday inside a home in northwest Champaign.
Champaign County Coroner Duane Northrup said Elijha James Booker of Champaign died from a gunshot wound he received about 1:30 a.m. at a home he was visiting in the 1600 block of Hedge Road.
Police found him in the house. He was taken to Carle Foundation Hospital, Urbana, where he was pronounced dead at 2:07 a.m. An autopsy was scheduled Saturday.
Mr. Booker was an eighth-grade student at Franklin STEAM Academy. Champaign Unit 4 spokesman John Lyday said the district will have support staff on hand Monday for students and families reacting to the tragedy.
Lt. Nate Rath said whether Mr. Booker, who had just turned 14 on Monday, was the intended target of the shooter or shooters remains under investigation.
It was later that police learned a 17-year-old also in the house had been shot but was treated and released from a local hospital.
Rath said detectives are interviewing the young people and adults who were in the house when the shootings occurred to piece together what happened. Rath was unable to say how many people that was.
Because the investigation is in the early stages, Rath declined to say much about what police have learned.
"We are continuing to conduct additional interviews and are open to listening to any information people have," he said.
Rath said police had "nothing" to indicate that the fatal shooting in the Garden Hills neighborhood was related to one that occurred shortly after 10 p.m. Friday in the 1100 block of North James Street.
Police were sent there at 10:12 p.m. for reports of gunfire and were told that a 26-year-old man was being treated at a local hospital for non-life-threatening injuries that appeared to be the result of gunshots.
Meantime, city council member Clarissa Fourman, who represents the Garden Hills area, said her nephews knew Mr. Booker to be "very well-known and active in the community."
She urged any adult or child who has information about what happened to tell the police.
"I’m tired of the people protecting the people who are doing these shootings. If you are a friend, a family member of a shooter, if you don’t turn them in, you are just as guilty as the person who did the shooting," she said.
"One week I’ll have somebody tell me, ‘My child is not getting involved because my child will die if they snitch’ and the next week when it’s her son on the ground, she wants justice. It shouldn’t take it being your family member before you speak out against it," Fourman said.
"People in the neighborhood are the only ones who can stop this. They still shoot the witnesses whether you speak or not. I don’t know why people don’t understand. If you start turning people in, they (the shooters) stop. It’s very frustrating within my community."
"The police can’t work off air. Somebody has to tell them what’s going on."
Yvonne Johnson, the mother of David Sankey, 16, who was slain last August in another street in Garden Hills, agreed. It took months for an arrest to be made in her son’s case.
Darrion White, 19, of Champaign, remains jailed in lieu of $1 million bond for the first-degree murder of Mr. Sankey after being arrested on May 2.
Reached in Centralia, where she planned to put flowers on her son’s grave on Mother’s Day, Johnson urged the parents of children involved in this violence to "grab hold of them."
"It’s bad. It’s really messing up the community because the parents aren’t saying nothing or controlling these kids. I don’t get it," Johnson said.
Fourman said it’s clear that the boys involved in the recent spate of gang-related violence are "younger and younger and their access to guns is greater."
"These kids have no conscience because they are dealing with a society that has no use for them. These boys are numb to the environment they are in. They’ve been through too much. The hardest thing to fight is somebody who has nothing to lose," she said.
Mr. Booker’s shooting death is the third fatal shooting in Champaign of 2019.
Police have made no arrests in any of those but are looking for Isaiah D. Cain, 28, charged with murder for the fatal shooting of Scott Roth, 21, that happened early on May 5 in the 400 block of Edgebrook Drive, Champaign.