Boy charged in Detroit with street artist’s death
DETROIT (AP) — A 14-year-old boy was charged Thursday with first-degree murder and armed robbery in the fatal shooting of a French street artist whose body was discovered a year ago near an abandoned Detroit public housing project.
The boy was 13 at the time of the killing of 23-year-old Bilal Berreni. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a statement that the boy and three other then-teenagers carried out the attack.
Dionte Travis, 17; Jasin Curtis, 18; and Drequone Rich, 20, were arraigned Wednesday on first-degree murder and armed robbery charges. They return to court Sept. 11 for a probable cause hearing.
On Thursday, the 14-year-old had his first court appearance in the case.
“I’m being charged as an adult?” the boy asked juvenile court referee Anthony Crutchfield at Thursday’s hearing, according to The Detroit News.
“My son is innocent,” his mother told Crutchfield. She said her son is a special education student and has a low IQ.
The referee ordered the boy detained until his next appearance Sept. 11.
The youngest defendant is designated as an adult in the juvenile court system, Worthy said. If he’s convicted, a judge could sentence him as a juvenile, an adult or a juvenile for a period, then an adult.
Prosecutors aren’t naming him because of his age, and The Associated Press generally doesn’t name juveniles accused of crimes. The AP is naming Travis because he was charged as an adult.
Prosecutors said they didn’t know if the 14-year-old has a lawyer. Lawyers for Curtis and Travis declined comment Thursday, while Rich didn’t have a lawyer on record Thursday.
Berreni, a Paris native, was found with a gunshot wound to the face on July 29, 2013, outside the Frederick Douglass Homes. No identification was on his body, and it was seven months before Michigan State Police identified him, using fingerprints.
Berreni began painting on walls in his neighborhood at age 15, according to French media reports. He later graduated from an applied arts school, then left to pursue his work around the world. He signed his work under the name the Zoo Project, gaining attention in 2011 through work in Tunisia in which he made life-size pictures of people killed in unrest in that North African nation.
He visited Detroit in 2012 and again in 2013. His father said he occasionally may have lived as a squatter in vacant structures.
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