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Chicago police Officer Aréanah Preston killed while still in uniform by group of teen robbers: police

A mourner wipes away tears while waiting for an evening vigil to begin for Chicago police Officer Aréanah Preston outside the 5th District police station on May 9, 2023. Preston was fatally shot after ending her shift early on May 6. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Four people have been charged with murder in connection with the fatal weekend shooting of off-duty Chicago police Officer Aréanah Preston on the South Side, Chicago Police Department leaders announced Wednesday, calling the slaying the loss of a “fallen hero.”

Police described the killing as a robbery that took a violent turn.

Interim Police Superintendent Eric Carter said the death was tragedy for the city. As Preston, who was still in uniform, was leaving work the four approached her in a stolen car and approached her while armed.

There was an exchange of gunfire, police said.

Tyrone Pendarvis, the commander of the 5th District, where Preston served, said she was a rising star whose death affected all who know her.

“She will truly be missed,” Pendarvis said.

Among those charged were Trevell Breeland, 19; Joseph Brooks, 19; Jakwon Buchanan, 18; and a 16-year old, Jaylan Frazier. They are expected to make initial court appearances Wednesday on murder and other charges including armed robbery.

Five people had been held since early this week in the death of 24-year-old Preston, who was found fatally shot early Saturday near her home in the Avalon Park neighborhood.

Police officials have said Preston was shot after she finished her shift in the Calumet District on the Far South Side.

Preston had just finished work and parked across the street from her residence, according to newly-filed court documents. As she stood in front of her residence, three people got out of a sedan that was in the area and ran toward her, according to residential surveillance video, the documents say. Several muzzle flashes are visible on video, and Preston fell to the ground.

The attackers ran back to the sedan, and one person returned to grab her gun, court documents say.

A ShotSpotter alert went off at 1:42 a.m., but “due to a backlog in the district, police didnot immediately respond,” court documents say. Police Wednesday said they responded to a 911 call from Preston’s Apple watch, which signaled she had been in a traffic crash.

Officers were dispatched to the area around 2:02 a.m. and attempted to revive Preston, the documents say, before she was rushed to University of Chicago Medical Center. Preston suffered gunshot wounds to the face and neck, according to court records.

Just before midnight Saturday, Jakwon Buchanan’s girlfriend and another female picked up him, Joseph Brooks and Trevell Breeland, according to a bond proffer filed by Cook County prosecutors.

The girlfriend had told Buchanan she needed money for a barbeque. The four teenagers were armed with guns and dressed in black with face coverings, the proffer said. The two females in the car identified the four male teens.

Some members of the group then proceeded to commit multiple robberies early Sunday morning before killing Preston, the proffer alleged.

Preston worked for the CPD for just three years prior to her killing, according to department officials. Hers is considered a line-of-duty death, which entitles her family to financial assistance from the state.

Relatives of Preston described her as “happy” and “intelligent” and dedicated to her career in criminal justice. A vigil was held for her Tuesday evening.

Trevell Breeland, 19, was arrested in July of 2021 and charged with multiple gun felonies, according to court records. Police pulled over a vehicle Breeland rode in after being called to the area for a ShotSpotter alert and found a gun under the passenger seat where he was sitting, a police report said.

About 20 minutes after the killing, the stolen vehicle was found burning not far away, police said.

Breeland pleaded guilty in January to one count of illegally possessing a weapon and was sentenced to two years probation and 50 hours of community service. He was also charged in December of 2021 with misdemeanor domestic battery for allegedly pushing his mother down the stairs, court records show. Records show the case was stricken from the docket in December.

Both outgoing Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson issued statements over the weekend pledging support for Preston’s family. Johnson called the slaying a “profound tragedy.”

She had earned a master’s degree in child and family law from Loyola University Chicago, according to her LinkedIn and Facebook profiles. She graduated in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and law enforcement administration from Illinois State University, according to the sites.


© 2023 Chicago Tribune

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