Suspects charged in 8th Ward double homicide

Scott Gordon

Three men charged with November’s double homicide on the Evanston-Chicago border are scheduled for a preliminary hearing in Chicago today. But south Evanston residents still are concerned about gang-related crimes in their neighborhood.

In late December, Chicago police arrested Curtis Clark, 20, Owen Payne, 20, and Dwayne Lucas, 15, and charged them each with two counts of first-degree murder in the Nov. 18 killings of Chicago residents Shawn Bland, 22, and Ian Russell, 23. Clark also is charged with one count of armed robbery.

The three defendants planned to rob the victims, members of a rival gang, on the Chicago side of Howard Street, said Tom Stanton, a spokesman for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office. Bland and Russell were standing outside Tasty Sub, 2001 W. Howard St., around 11 p.m., when they were accosted and shot, Stanton said. Stanton said Lucas and Clark were identified as the gunmen. Stanton also said Payne remained in a nearby alley during the evening’s shootings.

All three men left the scene without stealing anything.

Both victims were taken to St. Francis Hospital, 355 Ridge Ave. Bland was pronounced dead on arrival. Russell, who was listed in critical condition, died of multiple gunshot wounds about an hour later, said officer Patrice Harper of the Chicago Police Department.

Payne, Lucas and Clark are scheduled to appear in Criminal Court in Chicago today.

Lucas, a minor, will be tried as an adult. Anyone older than 15 charged in Illinois with first-degree murder must be tried as an adult, said Jerry Lawrence, another spokesman for the State’s Attorney’s office.

Four days after the shootings, Michele Hays, a member of the Brummel Park Neighbors activist group, organized an anti-crime rally near the crime scene.

In addition to group members, several influential residents and police officers attended the rally, including Chief Frank Kaminski of Evanston Police Department and Ald. Ann Rainey (8th).

Hays told The Daily on Tuesday that gangs are “by and large the big problem” contributing to serious crimes in Brummel Park. She said she knows of at least three small gangs in the area that are in conflict with each other.

“In the weeks following the arrests, the neighborhood was much quieter,” Hays said, but gang activity is “slowly starting to trickle back in.”

The amount of crime in the neighborhood “varies widely” from week to week but occasionally flares up, Hays said, noting that last summer Brummel Park had “many shootings — many more than I would expect in a quiet neighborhood.”

Hays also said that gang members in her neighborhood are “not that organized” and rarely wear uniforms or any other clear markers of gang membership.

Rainey said that gang activity in south Evanston and north Chicago “makes (her) job a whole lot harder.”

Rainey and other residents have tried to keep criminals out of the Eighth Ward by communicating with landlords who have previously rented properties to criminals. Rainey said several landlords have “seen the error of their ways” and now call her before renting to people who might be criminals or gang members.

“I will tell any landlord in town who calls me everything I know” about criminals trying to move into the neighborhood, Rainey said.

“My goal is to move all the criminals either south of Howard Street or north of Oakton Street,” Rainey added. “Get ’em out of my ward.”

Evanston police said they are working with Chicago police to fight crime along the Howard Street border between Chicago and Evanston.

“It’s a busy area,” in terms of crime, said Deputy Chief Michael Perry of EPD.

Evanston and Chicago police will be holding a joint roll call of their officers tonight at the corner of Howard Street and Custer Avenue in Evanston, just across the street from the scene of the shootings. Perry said the departments hold a joint roll call two or three times a year.

“It shows that we work hand-in-hand,” Perry said.