Four teenagers have been charged with murder in the shooting death of an off-duty Chicago police officer early Saturday morning.
Officer Aréanah Preston, 24, was on her way home from work when she was shot at around 1:40 a.m. during a robbery spree.
Nineteen-year-olds Joseph Brooks and Trevell Breeland, Jakwon Buchanan, 18, and a 16-year-old boy face charges of first-degree murder, armed robbery, burglary, motor vehicle theft and other offences in connection with incidents that occurred on Friday and Saturday, Chicago police said Wednesday.
The four were ordered held without bail Wednesday by Judge David Kelly, who said prosecutors had provided “a mountain of evidence“ that the suspects had “engaged in a very violent crime spree.”
Preston was technically off her shift when she was killed, but she was still wearing her uniform that night as she walked home. The Chicago Police Department said Monday that it will rule Preston’s killing a “line of duty death,” which will secure additional benefits for Preston’s family.
After the bond hearing for the four teens on Wednesday, Preston’s mother, Dionne Mhoon, said she was “heartbroken” and “full of anger, rage, questions why.”
An initial timeline of events was released by police, who believe the teens drove past the off-duty cop in a sedan and circled back to approach her as she stood outside her home in Avalon Park, a neighbourhood in Chicago’s South Side.
Residential surveillance video shows three people getting out of the sedan and running toward Preston. Several muzzle flashes are visible on video and she falls to the ground, according to court documents. The attackers ran back to the sedan before one person returned to grab Preston’s gun.
Preston was found with gunshot wounds by a fellow officer who had responded to a car crash in the area. It’s believed Preston’s watch may have alerted authorities, NBC Chicago reported.
The fallen officer was rushed by squad car to the University of Chicago Medical Center for treatment. She eventually succumbed to her wounds, police said.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued a statement commending police for swiftly apprehending the suspects responsible for Preston’s “heinous murder.”
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“Their diligent efforts have removed violent, repeat offenders from our streets,” Lightfoot said. Interim police superintendent Eric Carter said Preston’s death was a tragedy for the city.
Tyrone Pendarvis, the commander of the 5th District where Preston served, said the officer was a rising star whose death impacted all who know her.
“She will truly be missed,” he said.
Preston worked for the department for just three years before her killing, according to department officials.
The National Association of Colored Women’s Club posted a photo of Preston, saying, “Aréanah was a light who smile brightened any room. She continued to lift as she climbed by serving and protecting her community as a Chicago Police Officer for the last three years.”
Loyola University also released a statement about Preston, who was set to graduate with a Master of Jurisprudence this upcoming Saturday.
“At Loyola, Officer Preston will be remembered by her faculty and classmates for her kindness, intellect, and commitment to service,” the statement reads.
— With files from The Associated Press
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