By JON SEIDEL and MITCH DUDEK
The bullet that fatally wounded 7-year-old Amari Brown on the Fourth of July was meant for his father, Chicago’s top cop said Sunday.
Antonio Brown, a ranking gang member with 45 previous arrests, was not cooperating with police as of Sunday afternoon as they tried to find his son’s killer, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said.
And if things had gone differently after Antonio Brown’s latest brush with police—an arrest on gun and theft charges in April—his son might not have become Chicago’s latest young victim of gun violence, McCarthy said.
Rather, records show Cook County Judge James Brown set Antonio Brown’s bail at $50,000 on April 7. Antonio Brown posted $5,000, records show. And according to McCarthy, he was back on the streets “the very next day.”
“If Mr. Brown is in custody, his son is alive,” McCarthy said at a press conference Sunday afternoon.
Donna Rotunno, Antonio Brown’s criminal defense attorney, said those comments are “too simplistic.” She later added that Antonio Brown “is afforded the same constitutional rights as all of us,” and 45 arrests “doesn’t mean you’re guilty.”
She said she has advised her 29-year-old client to cooperate with the police “in any way that he can.” And while she said she’s willing to join him for a conversation with investigators, she said she can’t force him to have it.
“There is still an unbelievable distrust between certain communities and the police,” Rotunno said.
If McCarthy is right, Rotunno said her client remains a target. And she said, “I’m sure there’s a level of fear associated with speaking to the police based on the fact that he is a target.”
Antonio Brown attended a vigil Sunday at the scene of the shooting in the Humboldt Park neighborhood, but he was distraught and wouldn’t speak to a reporter. His son, Amari, and a 26-year-old woman were shot while standing in the 1100 block of North Harding shortly before midnight Saturday, Chicago Police said.
They were among the victims in 62 total shootings—nine of them fatal—over the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
Cook County court records show Antonio Brown has been arrested several times for charges ranging from drug possession to assault. He has pleaded guilty to some drug crimes, landing a one-year prison sentence in 2012 for drug possession, records show. He is due back in court Wednesday.
McCarthy flipped through Antonio Brown’s arrest record in front of the TV cameras on Sunday, estimating it to be “probably about 22 pages long.”
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” McCarthy said.
The police superintendent has long complained about Illinois’ gun laws, and on Sunday he said Amari’s death “sadly underscores the problem that we deal with in this city, because it didn’t have to happen.”
But asked whether the blame falls on state lawmakers or the judge Antonio Brown faced in April, McCarthy said, “45 times—you figure it out.”
“Forty-five times we’ve put him in handcuffs, to what end? To what end?” McCarthy said. “And by the way, why do you think he’s not cooperating with us? What do you think he’s going to do about this incident?”
Rotunno said that’s not “necessarily a fair statement to make.”
Of all the crimes Antonio Brown has been arrested for, she said “none of them involve shooting anybody.”