A suspect with a lengthy rap sheet is facing murder and other charges in connection to the Fourth of July shooting death of 7-year-old Chicago girl Natalia Wallace, according to police and reports.
Reginald Merrill, 33, was charged with first-degree murder and aggravated battery on Monday, after a bloody holiday weekend that saw 17 people fatally shot and 70 others wounded, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Police allege Wallace’s death was connected to gang violence. Merrill, who was arrested hours after Saturday’s shooting, was taken into custody as he drove a white car matching a description of a vehicle from where the shots were fired, CBS Chicago reports.
The young girl was on a sidewalk outside her grandmother’s home in the city’s South Austin section when she was shot. Police have said they’re still looking for three other suspects in the shooting, the Tribune reports.
Merrill, the alleged getaway driver, is expected to appear in court Tuesday. He has at least six prior felony convictions, according to the Tribune. He was also sentenced to four years in prison in 2008 after pleading guilty to aggravated battery on a police officer, the newspaper reports.
“This is … ongoing gang-on-gang violence,” said Chicago police Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan. “And we have some evidence to support that, and that’s the best possible motive at this time.”
The shooting was retaliation for a prior killing, Deehinan said. A second victim, a 32-year-old man, was also shot in the ankle and leg during the incident, police said.
Natalia’s father, meanwhile, said he was pleased upon hearing of the first charges filed in connection to his daughter’s death.
“That’s great news,” Nathan Wallace told the Tribune, adding that his daughter could rest in peace if the remaining suspects are arrested as well.
Merrill has thus far refused to speak with police investigators, CBS Chicago reports.
Speaking to reporters Monday about the holiday weekend’s 17 fatal shootings, including that of a 14-year-old boy, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot told reporters Monday she wanted “all of us to feel this loss.”
“It feel personal to me,” Lightfoot said. “Thoughts and prayers are simply not enough at this point. Sorrow itself is not enough. What it says is we need to do better as a city.”
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