Police in Illinois have charged three teenagers with first-degree murder in the gruesome beating death of an honor roll student near a city high school The beating was captured on video. The nearly three-minute video, shot by a girl who attends Fenger, captured the gruesome melee as it unfolded.
The victim, Derrion Albert, 16, is seen being struck then stumbling to the ground; teenagers then continued to viciously punch, kick and strike him with the wooden boards. On the tape someone can be heard yelling, "Derrion, get up!" and calling for an ambulance.
The additional evidence provided by the video is aiding the investigation, Chicago police said.
Chicago police geared up to provide extra security at Fenger High School on Monday as they reviewed a graphic amateur video showing a student beaten to death with wooden two-by-fours.
Derrion's family was squeamish about watching the footage and not all of them were able to make it through. But they said they don't have a problem with people viewing it as long as it helps identify who beat Derrion to death.
"It hurt to watch," said LaTonia Williams, Derrion's aunt. "It's one thing to hear about it and come up with your own theory of what happened. To see it is another thing. It gave us a real clear picture of what happened. That video was crucial."
Some parents and students have expressed reservations about returning to Fenger on Monday. It is the first time Fenger will be open since Thursday, when brewing gang rivalries that started at school spilled onto the streets of the Roseland neighborhood on Chicago's Far South Side.
"Word is there will be more violence at the school on Monday. Don't think this is going to end," said the Rev. Victor Grandberry, community representative for the local school council, who said some parents will withdraw their students from Fenger on Monday.
Police said they are increasing their presence at and around Fenger to ease fears students and their parents may have about safety, Morgan Park District Cmdr. Mike Kuemmeth said. The beefed-up security will remain until the public perception that the school is dangerous decreases, he said.
In an effort to curtail the violence, several community groups plan to hold a vigil at the school Monday afternoon.
On Friday, a teen girl, who asked the family not to identify her because she fears retaliation, showed the video to Derrion's family before handing it over to police and WFLD-Channel 32, the local Fox station. The vivid images were captured from the middle of the brawl. The footage the girl shot provided an additional vantage point to video from a surveillance camera atop the Agape Community Center, 342 W. 111th St., next to a vacant lot where dozens of boys converged Thursday afternoon.
Detectives reviewed the tape Friday evening and said they appreciate the new evidence.
"We are pursuing interviews with a number of people of interest," Police Officer Gabrielle Lesniak, said as they began their mission to track down culprits.
Three people older than 17 and a juvenile are being questioned in connection with the attack, a law enforcement source said Sunday.
Police have identified several people from the video, police spokesman Roderick Drew said.
Fox Chicago was approached Friday by the female student's brother with a copy of the video, said Carol Fowler, the station's news director. It held off on airing the tape for 24 hours at the request of police, who wanted more time to find suspects. Fox paid its typical freelance fee of about $300 to obtain the tape exclusively, Fowler said. "The principal reason we decided to air the video was because it communicated in a powerful way the danger these kids face getting to and from school every day," Fowler said.
Joseph Walker, Derrion's grandfather, said he could not bear to watch the recording. "The graphics are too strong for me," he said. "God bless whoever took that video. It did and said it all."
Witnesses and police said Derrion, an honor roll student, was swept into the altercation.
The first officers who arrived on the scene waited until backup arrived before they broke up the sprawling fight, witnesses said.
All of the teens will be charged as adults, even though one of them is a minor, prosecutors in Cook County, Illinois, said Monday.
Police had appealed to the public for help in finding Albert's killers, reported the Chicago Tribune.
A teenage girl who asked not to be identified shot the video. She showed it to the victim's family on Friday, then turned it over to police and Fox Chicago, the Tribune reported.
Witnesses said Albert was trying to help another student and got swept into the fight.
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