An Evanston man has been charged in the weekend death of a 14-year-old Evanston boy, in what authorities said was a combination of mistaken identity and gang bravado.
Wesley Woodson III, 20, of the 1700 block of Ashland Avenue is accused of shooting and killing Dajae Coleman, a freshman at Evanston Township High School, around 10:30 p.m. Saturday in the 1500 block of Church Street.
Woodson was charged with first-degree murder and aggravated discharge of a weapon. He is being held without bond.
Friends said Coleman was at a party broken up because gang tensions were running high. As Coleman walked out with a couple of friends, someone pulled up and opened fire on the teens.
Evanston police said Friday an investigation revealed Woodson confronted the group and fired four shots. As Coleman and his friends started to run away, Dajae was shot in the back and died at the scene.
The arrest and charges did little to console Coleman's mother.
"It's kind of bittersweet. I don't have my son with me but at least someone very, very extremely dangerous is off the street," Tiffany Rice said as she headed to her son's visitation.
Police said Coleman and his friends had no affiliation with street gangs but Woodson did.
Woodson was arrested in May 2011 and charged with a handgun violation. He was arrested seven months later and charged with possession of a controlled substance, authorities said.
Still, at least one neighbor questioned whether it was Woodson who pulled the trigger.
"His father's a good guy. I've known him all my life. I remember when him and his wife got together. She's a good person. His daughters are good people. I don't know what happened to his son but I sincerely doubt that he was the shooter," said James Hightower, who lives near Woodson's family.
Coleman's friends and family said he was a gifted athlete and an honors student in middle school.
“He was a marvelous kid, excellent kid, would have been an excellent football player … whatever he set his mind to,” James Cox, Coleman’s grandfather, said at a vigil earlier this week.
Woodson returns to court Oct. 30 for a preliminary hearing.