Addressing random strangers in public always carries an element of risk, especially in less salubrious neighborhoods. We have no window onto another’s mental state, nor can we determine in advance how our well-intentioned enquiries might be construed.
But it’s still hard to comprehend how two teenage boys could be gunned down near a convenience store in Chicago after merely asking a man, admiringly, how tall he was.
The 19-year-old suspect, Laroy Battle, allegedly opened fire on the boys, Jasean Francis, 17, and Charles Riley, 16, in a back alley at around 5 p.m. on June 20 as they were walking home with another friend after buying candy at the store.
The boys didn’t know Battle, who is 6 foot 3, but had briefly encountered him at the store, where they asked him how tall he was.
“The victims commented … since Battle is quite tall, and they asked him how tall he was, and hoped to be that tall someday,” Deputy Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan told Chicago’s WLS-TV. “Obviously, we’ll never see the full growth of these poor children.”
Battle, bloodily living up to his menacing surname, followed the boys out of the store and fired nine rounds at them, police said.
Francis was shot in the back, chest and left hand, while Riley took bullets to the back and left leg. Both were rushed to the University of Chicago Medical Center where they were pronounced dead. The third teenager was not struck.
“He was a kid,” Latonya Pettit, Francis’s aunt, told the local news station. “Liked video games, snacks. That was his thing. He would walk into this hospital gift shop daily and purchase snacks.”
Battle was arrested after local community members identified him from surveillance footage released by police.
“To the community members who stepped forward with information – thank you. Detectives were able to quickly identify Battle, but it was the help we received from the community that led to his arrest,” Chicago Police wrote on Twitter.
Battle, who has three previous arrests and one previous conviction for unlawful use of a weapon, allegedly admitted to being the man captured on camera but didn’t divulge a motive for the shooting, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
He was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and possession of a controlled substance, according to police.
Francis and Riley were just two of 12 minors shot, five of them fatally, during a violent Father’s Day weekend in the city that saw 104 people shot in total.