3-hour violent crime spree ended with the murder of a driver on the Kennedy Expressway, prosecutors say

Prosecutors on Tuesday charged a Rogers Park man with participating in an hours-long violent crime spree one year ago that started with a robbery, progressed to a carjacking, and ended with the murder of a man who was driving on the Kennedy Expressway near Division Street.

Darnay Washington, 31, was on bond for three misdemeanor cases at the time of the alleged crimes, which investigators linked to him through ballistics testing and DNA they allegedly found on a Wendy’s soft drink cup inside the hijacked vehicle.

Police got a big break in the case when they arrested Washington on a bench warrant for one of those misdemeanor cases three days after he allegedly killed Vilut Gavrilas on the Kennedy on the evening of January 30, 2021, according to the allegations.

Darnay Washington (left) and Vilut Gavrilas | CCSO; Benson Family Funeral Home

When cops arrested Washington in the lobby of his apartment building on the 6600 block of North Sheridan, they allegedly found a loaded 9-millimeter handgun in a black bag he was carrying over his shoulder.

During a bond hearing the next day, a prosecutor said Washington told police he found the gun and kept it for protection. He eventually went home on electronic monitoring. The case is still pending, according to court records.

Investigators sent the gun out for ballistics testing that, one year later, would play a key role in bringing murder charges against him.

A violent spree

On Tuesday, Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said Washington and two still-unidentified men committed a series of violent crimes that culminated in the murder.

Murphy said that the trio first entered a smoke shop on the 4400 block of North Milwaukee and violently robbed the store at gunpoint. One offender grabbed the cashier by his throat as the others displayed guns and gathered merchandise and cash.

Video cameras recorded the incident, including when Washington stole a hookah bong from a shelf, Murphy continued. Police found the bong and other merchandise from the smoke shop when they executed a search warrant at his apartment three days after the robbery, Murphy said.

After the robbery, the men climbed into an Infiniti and left the scene, only to drive their car into a woman’s Nissan Rogue as she drove on the 5200 block of West Cullom about five minutes later, according to Murphy.

The 33-year-old woman got out of her SUV to check for damage, only to be confronted by Washington and one of the other men, who were both pointing handguns at her, Murphy said. Washington got in the driver’s seat and the men drove away with her SUV accompanied by the Infiniti, according to the allegations.

Later, as a snowstorm hit the city, the hijacked Rogue tried to pass Gavrilas, 37, who was driving slowly on the unplowed inbound Kennedy Expressway near Division Street, Murphy said.

Gavrilas’ dashcam was recording as he steered toward the Division Street ramp while the Rogue’s driver continued to try to pass him on the left and right. Eventually, Gavrilas opened his door to block the Rogue’s path and he began yelling at the Rogue’s driver, Murphy said.

That’s when the Rogue’s passenger-side window lowered and someone inside the hijacked SUV fired three shots at Gavrilas, killing him, said Murphy. The Rogue passed Gavrilas’ car and turned onto Division Street. Gavrilas’ car crashed on the Division Street ramp.

Investigators linked a series of CPD surveillance camera feeds to track the Rogue from the shooting scene to the 1700 block of North Sawyer in Humboldt Park. All three offenders involved in the earlier crimes were seen switching between the Rogue, the Infiniti, and two other cars over the next two hours, Murphy said.

The Illinois State Police eventually found the hijacked Nissan and recovered two shell casings and a Wendy’s soft drink cup from inside. Murphy said DNA on the cup matched Washington. One of the bullets recovered from Gavrilas’ body and one of the shell casings found inside the Rogue came from the gun police found in Washington’s bag three days after the murder, he alleged.

ISP also found the Infiniti. It was registered to Washington’s mother, and documents belonging to Washington were found in the car, Murphy said.

Washington received a nine-year sentence for armed robbery in 2014 and was discharged from parole in late October 2020, about three months before the alleged crime spree took place.

Assistant Public Defender Dylan Barrett said Washington is a practicing catholic, the primary caregiver for an 11-year-old, and he just learned that he has another child on the way. There is no proof that Washington fired the shots that killed Gavrilas, Barrett argued. He asked Judge Kelly McCarthy to place Washington on electronic monitoring.

Instead, McCarthy granted a state request to hold Washington without bail.

He is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated vehicular hijacking, and armed robbery.

Washington doesn’t qualify for our list of people accused of shooting, killing, or trying to shoot or kill others in Chicago while on bail because we only track persons who are awaiting trials for felonies. Washington had misdemeanor cases pending.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com