Police: Teen spent $50 from artist’s killing on pot, junk food

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Detroit — A 14-year-old charged in connection with the shooting death of a French artist netted $50 for his role and spent the money on pot and junk food, according to his confessions read in court Thursday.

He said the money was his portion of the $300 taken during the beating, robbery and murder of Bilal Berreni last year, according to statements read by Detroit police homicide investigator Ira Todd.

The teen, who is not being named by The Detroit News because he is a juvenile, was in Wayne County Juvenile Court for his preliminary examination before Judge Virgil Smith on murder and robbery charges.

The teen and three other defendants are accused in Berreni’s death after confronting him on the basketball courts of the abandoned Brewster public housing projects at St. Antoine and Alfred the afternoon of July 29, 2013. Berreni, 23, was looking for scrap materials to salvage for an art project he was working on, Todd said.

The four were part of a violent street gang called the Young Brewster (racial epithet), which, police say, have robbed and terrorized areas where Wayne State University students have frequented. They also have attacked and robbed others in the St. Antoine/Chene and Interstate 75/Mack areas.

According to the 14-year-old’s statement to police, the four teens approached Berreni and asked him for money. When he refused to give up his cash, he was attacked and shot in the face. One of the defendants found $300 in Berreni’s pant leg. The group also took his Bridge and ATM cards.

In the police statement, the 14-year-old said the group went looking for someone to “murk,” a street term for randomly robbing and killing someone. The teen told Todd in the statement taken last month that the ringleader of the small group of gang members said they were looking for someone to rob because “we gotta eat.”

The teen, in his statement, said they approached Berreni, who struggled to tell them in English he had no money.

“The man said, ‘I don’t have any money,’” the 14-year-old told police during the videotaped confession. “Tae (one of the other defendants) said ‘Stop lying to me.’ ” The 14-year-old said he saw Tae with a gun and later heard a gunshot and saw Berreni slumped over.

The teen identified “Tae” as 17-year-old Dionte Darryle Travis, one of the three older suspects in the case. The other two are Jasin Reno Curtis, 18, and Drequone Lamar Rich, 20.

Travis, Curtis and Rich have been charged with felony murder, armed robbery, felon in possession of a firearm and felony firearm in connection with the killing. Their scheduled Thursday court hearing was adjourned after attorneys asked for examinations to determine if the three were competent enough to give police statements. Curtis’ attorney also wants him mentally evaluated. The trio will be back before a judge at 1:30 p.m., Oct. 9.

The 14-year-old, in his second police confession Aug. 29, admitted he knew the group was going out with the intent to rob and kill when Berreni was slain.

Smith bound the 14-year-old over for trial on the charges and denied him bond. He was remanded back into juvenile lockup. The teen’s next hearing is Sept. 22 in Wayne County Juvenile Court. His family refused to comment after the hearing.

A woman who said she was the teen’s aunt was visibly upset over the outcome of Thursday’s court hearing and yelled at Todd at the end of the proceeding that he lied about her nephew. She also yelled at the veteran officer as she left the courtroom.

Berreni, 23, was living in Detroit at the time he was killed. He didn’t have identification on his body and it took authorities until March to identify him through DNA and fingerprints.

Curtis and Travis were arraigned Aug. 29, while Rich was arraigned Aug. 30.


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