CHICAGO – A gang member followed a man he suspected of burglarizing his mother’s home after spotting him driving in Chicago. Then he waited for the man to pull over, prosecutors alleged Tuesday, before opening fire – killing the man’s 6-month-old daughter.
Prosecutors revealed new details about the moments surrounding the March 11 shooting as they successfully convinced a judge to deny bond to Koman Willis, a convicted felon arrested over the weekend in the death of Jonylah Watkins.
Willis, 33, is accused of fatally shooting the baby while targeting her father, Jonathan Watkins, who was shot and seriously wounded as he held up his daughter after changing her diaper. Police said Tuesday there was no indication that Willis knew the baby was in the vehicle.
Assistant State’s Attorney Heather Kent told the judge that cellphone tower data put Willis in the immediate area at the time of the shooting. She also said surveillance videos showed his girlfriend’s van, which he “regularly drove,” was in the area before and after the shooting.
“The defendant admitted to parking his van in an alley, getting out of his van, and approaching the victim’s fan and opening fire on the unsuspecting victims,” Kent said.
But defense attorney Rob Fisher said Willis “is maintaining his innocence” and questioned the timing of the arrest. Willis, who didn’t enter a plea during the hearing, turned himself in Saturday.
“It is two months later now, so I’m curious about the allegations that were made,” Fisher said. “Now all of a sudden either new witnesses, according to the police spokesman, were discovered, or perhaps old witnesses who were making new stories.”
Kent alleged that Willis had vowed to shoot those responsible for taking video games and other items from his mother’s home about a month before the shooting. She said Willis was convinced Watkins took part.
Prosecutors allege Willis told people he retrieved a gun, then followed Watkins until he pulled over in Woodlawn neighborhood on the city’s South Side.
Watkins, whom authorities said was holding up his daughter to kiss her after changing her diaper, was shot three times and seriously wounded. The girl was shot once in the left armpit, with the bullet piercing her torso. She died a short time later.
Willis is a documented gang member with 38 previous arrests and five felony convictions. One of those convictions was for aggravated assault on a police officer, for which he was sentenced to three years in prison.
The shooting came just weeks after the slaying of Hadiyah Pendelton, a 15-year-old drum majorette who was shot a mile from President Barack Obama’s home just days after she performed at the president’s inauguration in Washington, D.C. Police believe she was gunned down in a case of mistaken identity.
Pendleton’s death was one of more than 40 homicides in Chicago in January, a total that made it the deadliest January in the city in more than a decade. Last year, homicides in Chicago topped 500 for the first time since 2008.
However, homicides are down since then. Chicago had 109 homicides this year as of May 12, according to the latest Police Department crime statistics. That’s a 39 percent drop compared with the same period last year.