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Updated: Targeted murder in west Evanston latest in bloody family feud

Marshall Cohen, Print Managing Editor

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Update, 7 p.m. Wednesday:

In a statement this evening, Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl called the recent shootings “unacceptable.”

“While we grieve with our local families over their losses, the entire Evanston community has been shaken,” Tisdahl said. “Our children are concerned for their safety and all residents are questioning this unusual period of events.”

Tisdahl acknowledged that the gun violence is related to an ongoing conflict between two extended families with gang connections.

“I have every confidence that Police Chief Eddington and members of the Evanston Police Department are doing what is required to end this period of violence and to keep all of us in Evanston safe,” Tisdahl said.

Original story:

The bloody feud between two Evanston families spilled into the streets again today with the fatal shooting of a 23-year-old man.

The victim, identified as Javar Bamberg, was gunned down in the 1700 block of Grey Avenue, according to a news release. Police were called to the area around 2 a.m. and found Bamberg’s body in a nearby alley. He was shot in the head.

The deadly shooting happened one block north of Evanston Township High School in a west-side neighborhood that has seen three murders in the past three months.

Longstanding family feud

Today’s incident is part of an ongoing feud between two groups in Evanston — a gang-affiliated rivalry between the Bamberg and Davis families that has persisted for years.

“This is not a normal family feud,” EPD Cmdr. Jay Parrott said. “These are two extended families with gang-related activities, and it’s interlaced between these two families … it’s not a traditional hierarchy of gang structure.”

Violent conflict between the two families dates back to 2005, police say.

In June of that year, an Evanston resident was gunned down inside The Keg of Evanston, 810 Grove St., and a 19-year-old man related to the Davis family was charged with the murder.

That man, Antoine Hill, was paroled earlier this year, Parrott said. The 22-year-old victim was reportedly connected to the Bamberg family.

Then in 2010, 23-year-old Marcus Davis was shot seven times while in his car at a parking lot on Dodge Avenue. John A. Bamberg Jr. was charged with the murder and his November trial brought the two feuding families face-to-face in a Skokie courthouse.

“Tensions were heightened,” Parrott said. “Both sides were seen going to court and had a very vested interest in the outcome of the case.”

As the trial continued in Skokie, Justin Murray was fatally shot Nov. 29 in the 1800 block of Brown Avenue. Murray, 19, was reportedly a distant cousin of defendant John Bamberg Jr. and Parrott confirmed that Murray “hung out” with Bamberg affiliates.

In court the next day, John Bamberg Jr. was acquitted of murder and released from jail.

Police investigating Murray’s murder said it was connected to the bitter family feud, although it’s still unclear whether or not Murray was the specific target in the shooting.

At Murray’s funeral Saturday, some speakers hinted that the ETHS graduate’s mother had encouraged him to attend community college out of state this summer as a way of staying out of the family feud in Evanston. Murray was reportedly home on a surprise visit when he was shot dead in front of his grandmother’s house.

The streets were quiet for a week as a grieving community prepared for Murray’s funeral.

Then, on the morning of the funeral, a 20-year-old Evanston man was wounded on Howard Street in what police called a retaliatory strike avenging Murray’s death. The man was specifically targeted by two attackers and sustained multiple gunshot wounds.

The man was transported to St. Francis Hospital in critical condition, and as of Wednesday, he is still in “a very serious state,” Parrott said.

Parrott declined to disclose the man’s identity but said his name had come up as a person of interest during the investigation into Murray’s slaying.

It only took four days for the next retaliation: Bamberg’s killing early this morning.

Detectives have been sent to the neighborhood to collect evidence, and more cops are now patrolling the streets to qualm safety concerns. But Parrott said a lack of community cooperation has hampered the investigation into the recent incidents.

“They don’t even give us valuable information,” Parrott said. “The lack of cooperation from this subculture or people involved is basically a roadblock to our mission, which is to hold people accountable for the violence and prevent future violence.”

Unresolved issues

Amid the violence, Evanston community leaders have rallied around a city-sponsored gun buyback program slated for Saturday. But it wasn’t organized to diffuse the bloody family feud.

Back in September, ETHS freshman Dajae Coleman was shot dead in the street while walking home from a party with friends. His shooting was a case of mistaken identity — the gunman mistook Coleman’s group for a different clique.

Witnesses cooperated with the investigation and Wesley Woodson III was charged with the murder. He pled not guilty in November and was scheduled to be back in court today.

Shocked by the loss of a promising and bright youth, Evanston officials, police and residents organized a buyback program to take guns off the street.

Carolyn Murray, mother of Justin Murray and co-chair of the West Evanston Strategic Team, helped organize the buyback. After her son’s shooting and the escalation of gang-related incidents in recent weeks, the program has taken on a new level of urgency.

“The work doesn’t stop,” she told The Daily last week. “It’s needed then and it’s needed now.”

Additional EPD officers will be on hand at the buyback to provide additional security. However, their main purpose is to assist residents as they bring in guns and to make sure everything runs smoothly.

“This is a test to see if people are really concerned about turning in guns to make a reduction of violence in Evanston,” Parrott said.

The gun buyback will be held 3 p.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday at Christ Temple Missionary Baptist Church, 1711 Simpson St.

Corrections: A previous version of this story misstated where on The Keg’s premises the Evanston resident was shot. It was inside the bar. A previous version of this story also misstated Marcus Davis’ last name. The Daily regrets these errors.

Justin Murray’s age was incorrect in a previous version of this article. The Daily regrets the error.

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About the Writer
Marshall Cohen, Managing Editor

Marshall Cohen was a managing editor of The Daily. His other past positions include City editor and deputy City editor. He is from Livingston, N.J., and...