Man allegedly participated in triple shooting on Sunday, 10 months after prosecutors refused to charge him in a murder case

Last December, Chicago police asked the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to charge Ishmael Simpson with a murder that occurred eight months earlier.

The evidence against Simpson allegedly included surveillance video of the murder and CPD bodyworn camera footage of him being arrested two days after the shooting for illegal gun possession. When cops detained him, he was allegedly wearing many of the same unique clothing items as the killer.

Investigators found other video evidence, too, and, damningly, a picture on Simpson’s phone of a page of grand jury testimony that showed the murder victim had testified against Simpson’s gang, officials said.

Ishmael Simpson | CPD

But prosecutors refused to charge Simpson in December, instead ordering police to find even more evidence, according to a source. The source’s information is supported by data on the state’s attorney’s public data portal. With charges denied, Chicago cops had to release Simpson.

On Sunday, prosecutors say, Simpson and three other men rolled up on a Humboldt Park block, got out of a car, and started firing. Three people were shot. Police caught Simpson after he allegedly ran from the scene, tossing a gun into the air as he fled.

Because the three shooting victims refused to cooperate with investigators, prosecutors only charged Simpson with illegal gun possession in connection with the incident on Sunday. But prosecutors this week also decided to charge him with the April 2021 murder case, even though the evidence against him had not changed since December.

“If they had charged him [with the murder] the first time,” a source said this week, “he would not have been out there shooting three people.”

We asked the state’s attorney’s office why it finally decided to prosecute Simpson for the murder after he allegedly participated in a new triple shooting. A spokesperson declined to comment, citing “pending litigation.”

We also asked the prosecutor’s office if there has been an investigation to determine how a man’s tightly-controlled grand jury testimony allegedly wound up in the hands of his murderer. The office did not immediately reply.

A murder

On April 16, 2021, Jawon Ward, 18, was sitting inside Hair Trendsetters Beauty & Barber Shop in North Lawndale. A man wearing paint-splattered jeans, a black hoodie with a white rectangle design, a unique lanyard on his belt, black Yeezy-style shoes, and a COVID mask over his lower face, walked in and shot Ward repeatedly.

Then, a second gunman entered and shot Ward as he lay on the floor. Ward died from gunshot wounds to his neck, chest, back, abdomen, and torso.

Surveillance video inside the salon recorded the shooting, including the first gunman’s distinctive clothing, prosecutor Christopher Nugarus said Tuesday. Cameras outside the store showed the gunmen arriving and leaving the scene.

Two days later, about a half-mile from the murder scene, Chicago police arrested Simpson for illegal gun possession. According to Nugarus, the officers were wearing body cameras, and the footage showed Simpson wearing the same paint-splattered jeans, Yeezy shoes, and distinctive lanyard as the first gunman who shot Ward.

Investigators later searched Simpson’s phone. They found pictures of Simpson with Ward as recently as five days before the murder, Nugarus said, along with images of Simpson wearing the same distinctive clothing. And then, there was that page of grand jury testimony.

The phone’s GPS data put Simpson near the murder scene 40 minutes before the killing and 15 minutes after, Nugarus said this week.

On December 11, prosecutors from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office reviewed the evidence gathered by Chicago detectives against Simpson. The attorneys refused to file charges and instructed the cops to continue working on the case.

Simpson, 24, pleaded guilty to the illegal gun case this spring and received a two-year sentence. Illinois Department of Corrections records show he reported to Stateville Correctional Center on May 2 and was released the same day.

A triple shooting

On Sunday evening, four men rode onto the 3300 block of West Ohio, jumped out with guns, and started firing. All four fired shots as people, including a child, ran for cover, dust flew, and a CPD ShotSpotter device alerted police to the gunfire, Nugarus said.

All four gunmen fled the scene, leaving three victims with gunshot wounds.

Police arrived just in time to see the shooters flee. According to Nugarus, they apprehended Simpson and another man, Jerome Turnage, and recovered two guns. The other two shooters fled in a car waiting for them behind a fence. At the scene, investigators discovered 67 shell casings.

Prosecutors charged Simpson with unlawful use of a weapon by a felon and aggravated discharge of a firearm in connection with Sunday’s incident. And, they decided to go ahead and charge him with Ward’s murder, too, even though the case is based upon essentially the same evidence that prosecutors reviewed ten months ago.

Simpson’s public defender said he completed anger management classes at IDOC and participated in anti-violence training and job training after being paroled this year. Simpson even became a volunteer at the program after he completed the program, the attorney said.

Recently, Simpson asked the state to let him complete his parole in a different state to escape Chicago’s violence, according to the attorney.

The lawyer also questioned exactly how unique the gunman’s clothing was and why Simpson’s phone was near the murder scene before and after the killing but not as the murder took place.

Judge Susana Ortiz ordered Simpson held without bail.

Turnage is charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and aggravated discharge in connection with Sunday’s shooting. He was on probation for a felony gun case at the time of the incident, Nugarus said.

Ortiz held him without bail for violating probation and set bail at $250,000 for the new charges. He must post 10% of that amount to be released in the shooting case.

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