A 16-year-old former student who was expelled from Benito Juarez High School was denied bail Saturday on charges related to a mass shooting on the school’s campus in Pilsen in December.
Christian Acevedo is charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder as an adult in the December 16 shooting that killed two teenagers and injured two others.
Acevedo had been expelled earlier that school year for behavioral, academic, and attendance issues, according to Cook County prosecutors.
Surveillance cameras captured Acevedo near the campus before the shooting, including him talking to people on a soccer field and then fleeing the area, but the cameras did not capture the shooting itself, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors said Juarez student Brandon Perez, 15, and Chicago Bulls College Prep student Nathan Billegas, 14, were standing in a plaza under a bridge that connects two wings of the school’s campus shortly after classes were dismissed for the day around 2:30 p.m.
Witnesses told investigators they heard “Razas over there” referring to the La Raza street gang, and that someone warned Perez and Billegas that Acevedo was there to cause trouble, according to prosecutors.
Acevedo is a documented member of the “Bishops” street gang, and Billegas was a member of another gang.
Prosecutors said Acevedo approached Perez and Billegas and asked Perez if he was a “Raza” and Perez asked him why he wanted to know.
Acevedo is accused of walking a few steps away before turning around and opening fire, striking Perez and Billegas in the heads and two other students in the bodies before fleeing.
Prosecutors said a witness photographed Acevedo holding a gun and standing over one of the victims. Several people, including a Chicago police officer who had previously interacted with Acevedo, allegedly identified him as the shooter in surveillance footage.
Acevedo was seen driving a stolen vehicle on Thursday, and police followed him to his home, where he ran inside while holding a rifle, according to prosecutors. Police arrived shortly after and took him into custody, but no rifle was found during a search of the first floor.
Prosecutors said they found four guns in Acevedo’s room, three of which had aftermarket switches that made them fully automatic, as well as extended magazines. According to prosecutors, ammunition was discovered in his bedroom and garage during his arrest.
Acevedo also faces juvenile court charges, including felony counts of aggravated discharge on school grounds and other weapons charges, according to officials.
The allegations were “horrible” according to defense attorney Nicholas Giordano, but he argued to Judge Ankur Srivastava that prosecutors had not stated that their evidence included DNA or fingerprints, and that Acevedo had not admitted to being the shooter.
Acevedo lives with his family, which includes his father and grandmother, and was in the process of enrolling in a program to return to school, according to Giordano.
The attorney also questioned why it had taken investigators months to apprehend his client despite having “all these identifications.”
Giordano requested that Acevedo be returned to his parents.
In his decision to hold Acevedo without bail, Srivastava cited the potential life sentence Acevedo faces if convicted of the current charges, as well as the multiple identifications of Acevedo and the weapons found in Acevedo’s possession.
Acevedo is scheduled to appear in court again on March 3.
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