URBANA — A Champaign County judge has ordered that a 15-year-old who allegedly accidentally shot and killed his friend in northwest Champaign earlier this month remain locked up until at least a May 30 hearing.
Judge Heidi Ladd said it was "clearly a matter of immediate and urgent necessity" that the teen, charged with involuntary manslaughter and unlawful use of a weapon for the May 11 shooting death of Elijha Booker, 14, be locked up due to the "rash decision of him and his family members."
The boy’s family took him to the Juvenile Detention Center in Urbana about 4 a.m. Tuesday, five days after a warrant of apprehension had been issued for him and 10 days after he disappeared after allegedly shooting his friend with a gun that police have not found.
Arguing for his continued detention, State’s Attorney Julia Rietz told Ladd that it was 1:30 a.m. May 11 when Champaign police were summoned to the boy’s home in the 1600 block of Hedge Road and found Mr. Booker on the floor, mortally wounded. He was taken to Carle Foundation Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 2:07 a.m.
Police found one spent bullet shell in the house and learned that another male teen who said he was sleeping next to where Mr. Booker was sitting on the couch had been hit with the same bullet.
"The bullet hit Elijha Booker, passed through and through him and hit (the other teen) in the rib," Rietz said, adding that authorities have the bullet, which was recovered from the older teen.
Rietz said the 17-year-old, one of about eight people present in the small house, was "not terribly helpful" to police and said he was sleeping when he was shot.
"Elijha Booker and (the charged teen) are good friends. Elijha is often at (the other boy’s) home. Family members said (the two boys) were in the living room. They heard a loud noise, then saw (the alleged shooter) leaning over Elijha telling him to breathe and not to go to the light," Rietz recounted.
The boy was not in the home when police arrived. His mother told officers that Mr. Booker was there alone and that her son was spending the night at his grandmother’s.
No gun was found by police, Rietz said.
At 8:19 a.m., less than seven hours after the shooting, the alleged shooter put a picture of his dead friend on Facebook with the following post: "I’m sorry bro. OMM (which Rietz said means ‘on my mother’), I’m sorry."
Rietz said Mr. Booker’s mother talked to the alleged shooter’s mother, who said she had tried to do CPR on Mr. Booker.
"It appears to be an accidental shooting," Rietz told the judge.
The teen is currently awaiting sentencing by Ladd for an aggravated battery that Rietz said happened Aug. 21, 2018. In that case, he admitted he punched a 16-year-old in the face and stole the victim’s Chromebook computer and shoes.
The teen failed to show up for his sentencing in that case last Thursday, the same day Rietz sought the arrest warrant on the manslaughter and weapons offenses.
The teen also had a prior adjudication for misdemeanor theft but the state took steps to revoke that probation because of alleged disciplinary issues he was having at school, his failure to get counseling and shoplifting.
Both of the teen’s parents were in court for his Tuesday afternoon hearing.