An 18-year-old charged with murder for the death of a 73-year-old veteran during a carjacking in Hyde Park this week pleaded guilty in another vehicular hijacking case just two months ago, prosecutors said Friday.
Frank Harris was 17 when he allegedly committed the previous carjacking. He received a sentence of two years probation when he pleaded guilty on May 13, Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said.
Almost two months to the day after that, on July 14, Harris and a 17-year-old male allegedly tried to carjack Vietnam veteran Keith Cooper in a strip mall parking lot at 1236 East 53rd Street, Murphy said.
“The victim…survived wars, but didn’t survive his encounter with this defendant,” Murphy told Judge Charles Beach during Harris’ bond court hearing Friday.
The prosecutor said Cooper got out of his vehicle and walked toward a CVS when the 17-year-old approached him from behind and snatched the keys from his hand around 1:05 p.m. Cooper’s key fob fell to the ground and Harris picked it up, Murphy said.
Cooper screamed for help and demanded his keys back. Video shows Harris walked up behind Cooper and punched him in the head, Murphy continued. Cooper grabbed his head and took a step back after being punched. Then, the other carjacker pushed him in the chest, Murphy said.
Both Harris and the 17-year-old allegedly tried to get into Cooper’s car as he demanded his keys back. The younger offender allegedly kept his hand on his waistband as if he had a gun.
Harris and the other teen, unable to get into the car, ran away as two witnesses called 911.
About two minutes later, Cooper collapsed and stopped breathing, Murphy said. An off-duty paramedic began CPR, but Cooper died a short time later at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
A U of C police officer found Harris and the other teen about a half-mile away after a third witness saw them changing their clothes in a synagogue courtyard, Murphy said. Both of the carjacking witnesses identified them as the offenders, he said.
Harris waived his right to remain silent and gave police a recorded statement in which he admitted that he and the other teen intended to take Cooper’s car, but Harris blamed the 17-year-old and claimed that he didn’t do anything, Murphy said.
In the carjacking that Harris recently pleaded guilty to committing, Harris displayed a handgun and demanded a man’s keys and phone as the victim unloaded his car on the evening of September 21, Murphy said. Police found Harris driving the carjacked Hyundai about 15 minutes later. The victim’s phone was in Harris’ pants and a gun — later determined to be a replica – was on the front passenger seat, according to Murphy.
Assistant Public Defender Robyn Haynes said Harris, who was shot last month, has a paid position with GoodKidsMadCity, a group that identifies as “Black and Brown young people united in fighting to end violence in our cities.” He is also attending high school summer classes, she said.
Prosecutors charged Harris with murder while committing another forcible felony and aggravated vehicular hijacking of a handicapped person, according to CPD.
Judge Beach ordered him held without bail.
The 17-year-old, identified in court records as Dushawn Williams, is expected to be charged as an adult with murder and attempted aggravated battery of a vicitm over the age of 60 on Saturday.