#58: Gun charges approved, murder charges rejected in death of teen found fatally shot in the South Loop

CHICAGO — Cook County prosecutors last week rejected murder charges against an 18-year-old man who was allegedly caught on video as he fired a gun into a car during a clash that left a 17-year-old boy dead last fall. But they did approve a felony gun charge against Tony Pearson, arguing that it was illegal for him to have the gun that he was seen shooting.

Pearson, who turned 18 one week before the October 29 shooting, had a felony gun case pending in juvenile court at the time. He is the 58th person accused of killing or shooting—or trying to kill or shoot—someone in Chicago last year while having a felony case pending. At least 102 people were allegedly victimized in the crimes, and 26 died.

Tony Pearson | Chicago Police Department

Around 9 p.m. on October 29, someone sitting in a blue Hyundai Elantra fired shots toward a group of people at the Wentworth Gardens CHA complex in the 3900 block of South Princeton, prosecutor Lorraine Scaduto said during Pearson’s bail hearing. Some of the people fired back at the Elantra.

Pearson was inside a nearby gas station when the shooting began, she said. Video allegedly showed him dropping a bag of items he had just bought, running outside, and opening fire on the Elantra. Scaduto said the car’s rear window shattered, and someone inside the vehicle was killed.

Chicago police found the Elantra about 20 minutes later, abandoned under the L tracks in the 1900 block of South State. They also found Anthony Sims dead in the car’s back seat, and two handguns ditched under a nearby SUV, according to CPD records. 

Scaduto said police never found the gun that Pearson fired that night, but they did find 27 shell casings “connected to” the weapon.

Detectives investigating the shooting went to Pearson’s neighborhood last week to pick him up for questioning, Scaduto said. He ran when he saw the cops coming, but they caught up with him. Officers said they found a loaded handgun inside a barbecue grill along the route he followed.

Scaduto said prosecutors rejected murder charges against Pearson based on the available evidence, a lack of cooperation from witnesses, and Pearson’s claim that he was acting in defense of others.

He is, however, charged with possessing the gun during the shooting and having the firearm cops said they found inside the grill.

Both of those guns, as well as one he was charged with possessing last August, were equipped with laser sights and switches that could make them fire automatically, like a machine gun, according to Scaduto. 

Judge Barbara Dawkins set bail at $500,000, noting that Pearson “inserted himself in a situation, a highly dangerous situation. He couldn’t have put himself in that situation had he not been himself armed with a firearm.”

Pearson must post 10% of the bail amount to be released on electronic monitoring.

The “not horrible” series

This report continues our coverage of individuals accused of killing, shooting, or trying to kill or shoot others while on bond for a pending felony case. CWBChicago began our series of reports in November 2019 after Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans publicly stated, “we haven’t had any horrible incidents occur” under the court’s bond reform initiative.

The actual number of murders and shootings committed by people on felony bail is undoubtedly much higher than the numbers seen here. Since 2017, CPD has brought charges in less than 5% of non-fatal shootings and 33% of murders, according to the city’s data. 

Previous installments of the “not horrible” series are available here.

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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