The Evanston man charged with the shooting death of 14-year-old Evanston Township High School freshman Dajae Coleman pled not guilty to 153 felony counts in Cook County Circuit Court on Tuesday.
The State’s Attorney’s Office charged Wesley Woodson, 20, with first-degree murder and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, among multiple other counts, after police say he fired a gun at Dajae and his friends as they were walking home from a party Sept. 22. Evanston police say Woodson, who has gang affiliations, mistook Dajae for someone he knew, and described the shooting as “a retaliatory act upon an innocent group of teens with no gang affiliations.”
Woodson is charged not just with felony counts in Dajae’s death but also on behalf of the group of students who were walking home with their friend the night he was shot. Police say Woodson fired four shots from a 9-millimeter weapon at the group, and as they started to run away, Dajae was shot in the back.
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“I was shocked there was that many counts, but I’m glad because something is going to stick,” said Dajae’s grandfather, Michael Rice, who attended the court appearance along with other family members, including Dajae’s mother. “Considering what he did, there can’t be too many counts.”
Dajae’s aunt, Katie Thomas, said that her nephew, an honor student who hoped to play basketball for ETHS, was excited to start high school this fall. She noted that he had completed just two weeks of his freshman year when he died.
“This is a kid, he didn’t have a chance to do anything wrong,” she said. “Whatever [Woodson] gets, he deserves. Because Dae Dae would never get to his age.”
During the hearing, Judge Garritt Howard remarked on the large number of felony counts. But assistant state’s attorney Michele Gemskie explained later that many of the counts were simply different ways of charging the same thing, and given the number of kids who were present when Dajae was shot, the counts quickly multiplied.
“There’s lots of victims,” she said.
Woodson is next scheduled to appear in court at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 12, in room 206 at Cook County Circuit Court in Skokie, 5600 Old Orchard Rd.