WEST TOWN — An 18-year-old man has been charged with first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of teenager Caleb Westbrooks in Noble Square last month.
Westbrooks, 15, was shot shortly after 1 p.m. Jan. 18 in the 800 block of North Greenview Avenue in West Town, a few blocks from Rauner College Prep, where he was a freshman. He was taken to Stroger Hospital and pronounced dead around 90 minutes later, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Tremell Neloms was arrested Wednesday in Calumet City and charged with Westbrooks’ killing. Neloms was ordered held without bail Thursday at a bond court hearing.
Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said Thursday that Westbrooks left Rauner around 12:15 p.m. Jan. 18 during an early dismissal. Westbrooks and some friends then walked several blocks to Golder College Prep, 1454 W. Superior St., to meet up with other friends, Murphy said.
Neloms, a senior at Golder, was captured on video leaving the school shortly before 1 p.m. when he began following Westbrooks and his friends north toward Chicago Avenue, Murphy said.
Neloms then approached Westbrooks near the corner of Chicago and Greenview avenues, Murphy said.
Westbrooks can be seen on video asking Neloms a question before Neloms turns away to remove a gun from his right pocket, Murphy said. He then raised the weapon towards Westbrooks and “announced a robbery.”
Westbrooks asked Neloms “who he is robbing,” Murphy said, when Neloms opened fire, shooting Westbrooks three times in his stomach, chest and arm. Murphy said Neloms fired four more times at the group Westbrooks was with before fleeing. None of Westbrooks friends were injured, police said.
Prosecutors said the entire incident was captured on surveillance video provided by Golder College Prep and residential buildings in the neighborhood.
Neloms’ attorney Stefan Fenner argued the court should set a bond amount because his client was 17 at the time of the shooting, was wearing a mask that could obscure his identity. Fenner also said the surveillance video does not have sound.
Fenner said Neloms is a West Town resident, had a 3.0 grade point average and is expecting to graduate from Golder this summer.
But Judge Barbara Dawkins rejected that argument, agreeing with prosecutors Neloms should be held without bond because he could face a life sentence in the charges.
“The presumption is great that this defendant is guilty of the crime of first-degree murder, that this defendant personally discharged a firearm which proximately caused the death of another individual, that he is facing a possible natural life sentence and that this is a mandatory no bail situation,” Dawkins said.
Corneal Westbrooks, Caleb’s father, said in a statement Thursday he was thankful for West Town neighbors who supported his family, and provided police with videos and information leading to Neloms’ arrest.
“While this is good news, it doesn’t bring Caleb back to me, his mother, his sister, his grandmother, uncles, cousins and scores of friends,” Corneal Westbrooks said. “Our lives are devastated forever. I never knew silence in my home could be so loud.”
Last month, Westbrooks’ family urged anyone with information about his killing to come forward. The Cook County Crime Stoppers group also offered a $15,000 reward for information leading to a conviction in the crime.
At a visitation for Westbrooks on Jan. 28, friends remembered the teen as “smart, witty and athletic.”
In a statement last month, Rauner College Prep principal Brendan Bedell said Westbrooks “touched so many lives in his time at our school.”
“He made it his practice to pop into classrooms after school to introduce himself to students or teachers he hadn’t yet met. That was the kind of person Caleb was, always looking to meet and connect with everyone. He brought light and laughter to those around him through his humor and positive energy,” the statement said.
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