CHICAGO (AP) — A Chicago teenager will be sentenced Wednesday for using a gun given to her by an uncle to kill another girl in what started as a Facebook feud over a boy, ending a chapter in a case that came to symbolize how the gun violence that plagues parts of the city passes from one generation to the next.
The teen, who turns 19 next month, pleaded guilty in January to first-degree murder in the April 2014 killing of Endia Martin, when both were 14 years old, and attempted first-degree murder in the wounding of Lanekia Reynolds, the girl she went to fight that day.
The defendant, who isn’t being named because she was charged as a juvenile, faces a mandatory sentence of at least five years in custody and can’t be held beyond her 21st birthday. With the time she has already served, she will be eligible for parole next April.
The case drew widespread attention for several reasons, perhaps none more so than that the defendant got her firearm from an adult who knew the cost of gun violence as well as anyone. “There is a cycle of violence that just perpetuates itself,” said Eugene Roy, a retired police commander who oversaw the investigation of the shooting. “And unfortunately, what happened is not surprising.”
Her uncle Donnell Flora, who has been paraplegic since he was shot in 2010, testified that when he learned his niece and Reynolds planned to fight, he grabbed a handgun, got onto a bus and made his way to the scene, which was outside of a home in the Back of the Yards neighborhood on the city’s South Side.
Flora testified that he brought the gun to protect his niece and gave it to her with instructions to give it to her adult cousin, Vandetta Redwood, which he saw her do. But in the chaos of a crowd of a few dozen people that had gathered on the street, the freshman honor student raised the gun and opened fire. Reynolds and Martin, who were on the porch of a house, fled inside. As they did, one bullet grazed Reynolds’ arm. Another found Endia Martin’s back, killing her.
Flora was convicted of first-degree murder and other charges in the case and was sentenced to 100 years in prison. Redwood, meanwhile, was charged with handing the loaded gun to the teen, but she was acquitted.
“There are no excuses or rationalization for giving a child a gun to take to a ridiculous fight about a boy,” Judge Thaddeus Wilson told Flora when he sentenced him in January. “Children in this city are dying by the hundreds because adults fail to and/or refuse to be adults.”
During a recent phone interview from his prison in southern Illinois, Flora didn’t make excuses for introducing a gun to a dispute between young girls. Choosing his words carefully so as not to endanger his appeal, he tried to explain his rationale.
“You have kids 12, 13, 14 with guns,” he said. “It wasn’t no grown-up who shot me, it was a kid.” Joel Brodsky, an attorney who represented Flora during his trial, said Flora just wanted to have a gun at the scene for his niece’s protection.
“He really cared for his niece, didn’t want any harm to come to her. … And his testimony was he wanted the gun to be present in case somebody came at her with deadly force,” Brodsky said. Roy, the police commander who oversaw the investigation, isn’t buying it.
“Here’s a guy who’s a paraplegic, his life has already been destroyed by gun violence, and what’s he doing?” Roy asked. “He’s encouraging gun violence that went to the next step: murder.”