‘Gang related’ label an excuse for unsolved homicides, victim’s mother says

Source: Justin Murray funeral program

Justin Murray, 19, died from a shooting in west Evanston on Nov. 29. His mother, Carolyn, now alleges EPD has used "gang-related" murder as an excuse for the lack of arrests.

Ciara McCarthy, Reporter

With no arrests made more than two months after the murder of 19-year-old Justin Murray, his mother, Carolyn Murray, has increased pressure on the Evanston Police Department to solve the case quickly.

Murray alleged that EPD has used the label “gang related” to describe her son and Javar Bamberg’s murders to decrease attention from the lack of arrests made.

“They’ve put a label by saying it’s gang related, which diminishes the fact that they’re not solving these crimes,” Murray told The Daily.

Murray said she is meeting with the state’s attorney’s office this week to discuss her concerns.

On Nov. 29, Justin Murray was murdered in front of 1818 Brown Ave. as a result of a dispute between two Evanston families. The ongoing conflict continued with the non-fatal shooting of a man in the 1900 block of Howard Street on Dec. 8 and Bamberg’s murder on Dec. 12.

No arrests have been made in either the Murray or Bamberg case.

“The investigation is still ongoing,” EPD Cmdr. Jay Parrott said. “Just because no arrests have been made doesn’t mean the investigation has stopped.”

Persons of interest in the recent homicides have been identified, but there is not enough evidence yet to bring charges against them, Parrott said. He added the investigations have been slowed by a lack of cooperation from witnesses to the incidents.

Parrott said Carolyn Murray’s reticence to label the shooting was understandable but maintained that gang activities played parts in both murders.

“No parent wants their kid associated with gang violence,” he said. “And we’re not saying that Justin was in a gang. At the same time, we don’t want to call it something that it’s not.”

Justin Blake, an Evanston resident and community activist, said he was also concerned by the EPD’s labeling of recent homicides.

“Once you undertake an investigation of any sort, you should go into it non-biased,” he said.

Blake added that he believed EPD was treating the victims’ families “almost in a hostile manner.”

However, others in the community have expressed faith in the investigation. Ald. Delores Holmes (5th) said she remained confident in the EPD’s capabilities. Holmes said Murray’s wait for justice was taking time, but that she believes police are doing their best.

“I think one hour is too long to solve a child’s murder, but you can still only work with what you have,” she said.

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