Jury convicts man for shooting into a vehicle in 2020

Chicago
By Chicago 6 Min Read

URBANA — A Champaign man convicted in connection with an apparent retaliatory shooting that occurred three years ago in Champaign faces up to 15 years in prison when he’s sentenced in six weeks.

A Champaign County jury on Thursday deliberated 90 minutes before convicting Robert A. Grady, 29, of aggravated discharge of a firearm and unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon. Grady will have to serve 85 percent of whatever sentence Judge Matt Lee imposes on him Dec. 8.

The charges stemmed from a shooting on Sept. 1, 2020, at the intersection of Bradley Avenue and Duncan Road in northwest Champaign.

Evidence in the two-day trial was that Grady was in a U-Haul westbound on Bradley when he spied the Suburban that he knew Javon Jones frequently drove and fired at least three shots in its direction.

Testifying because he was subpoenaed and not because he wanted to, Jones said he could not remember telling police about what had happened on that day and denied that he was even in the Suburban.

However, police testimony was that Jones, now 27, had been implicated in a shooting outside a barbershop in Champaign about 10 days earlier in which Grady was the suspected target and that was the likely reason that the Suburban was being shot at on Sept. 1.

In an interview with police, Jones said he had his children in the car.

A witness who heard the shots and smelled gunpowder coming from the U-Haul followed it to the 800 block of Maple Park Drive and alerted Champaign police, who quickly converged on the rental van.

Officers saw a man in the doorway of the house where the rental van had parked. When that man saw police, he shut the front door and ran out the back, jumping over fences as he made his way toward Duncan Road.

Neither former police Sgt. Dave Griffet nor Detective Lance Carpenter said they could identify the man running that day but both said in court that Grady had the same build.

Although police did not catch the man, they found a 9 mm gun in his path of flight.

A state crime lab weapons scientist testified Wednesday morning that the three shell casings that Champaign police found in the intersection of Bradley and Duncan came from the gun found under a bush in the flight path.

Another scientist specializing in DNA analysis said although she found a mixture of DNA from four people on the gun, the “major contributor” of the DNA found on the grip and the trigger was Grady.

When he was arrested in December 2022, Grady had initially refused to comply with a court order to give a sample of his cheek cells for DNA analysis. The sample was collected about a month later.

In closing arguments, Larson said there was a reason Grady refused the court order.

“He knew his DNA was on the gun. It’s called consciousness of guilt,” said the prosecutor.

Larson praised the police for their “fantastic” investigation, working it “backwards for a motive.”

“This was a crime of opportunity,” he said, calling it “not very well thought-out” since Grady was in a recognizable U-Haul when the gun was fired at 1:40 p.m.

Larson said Jones gave evasive answers in court and suffered from memory loss because “he doesn’t want to be labeled as a snitch” but he had confirmed for police not long after the shooting that his children were in the Suburban, which was hit by gunfire.

Jones also confirmed for a police officer that two days after the barbershop shooting, he received a message from Grady’s phone that said, “OK … you know what I do. Your turn just hasn’t come up yet.”

And police testified that minutes after the intersection shots were fired, Jones sent a message to Grady that said, “I told you, keep the kids out of this.”

Larson said all that, on top of the DNA and gun evidence, pointed to Grady being the Sept. 1 shooter.

Grady’s attorney, Jeff Cisco, disagreed, arguing that Jones was a “wholly unreliable witness” and that no one testified that the person who ran from the house on Maple Park was Grady.

Cisco also argued that Grady’s DNA on the gun didn’t prove that he was shooting it that day.

“DNA can get on a gun through incidental contact. That doesn’t rise to the level of possession,” Cisco argued.

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