Koman Willis stood in court today, thumbs hooked in the back of his jeans, as he listened to a prosecutor describe how vengeance over a stolen video game drove Willis to fatally shoot 6-month-old Jonylah Watkins as she was being held by her father.
Willis had “told others that he would shoot the people responsible for the burglary of his mother’s home,” Assistant State’s Attorney Heather Kent told a judge. “The defendant also told one of the people he believed was responsible for the burglary that he was ‘going to kill him’ when he caught him."
Willis, 33, had suspected Jonathan Watkins, 29, of stealing the video game system from his mother's home. On March 11, he opened fired as Watkins and his baby daughter sat parked in a minivan in the Woodlawn neighborhood. A bullet entered Jonylah's right shoulder and traveled down through her left thigh. She died the following day. Her father survived multiple gunshot wounds.
Kent said Watkins was in the front passenger seat of his van, changing his daughter’s diaper, at the time of the shooting. “Jonathan lifted Jonylah up to kiss her when the defendant approached and fired multiple gunshots into the van,” Kent said.
Willis also made admissions to other people that he had seen Watkins driving in the neighborhood, went and got his gun and then opened fire on the van, Kent said.
Willis “told others that he would shoot the people responsible for the burglary of his mother’s Chatham home,” Kent said. “The defendant also told one of the people he believed was responsible for the burglary that he was ‘going to kill him’ when he caught him."
Law enforcement sources said whoever stole the game system sold it to someone else in the neighborhood. When the new owner hooked up the system at home, he saw it belonged to Willis, a fairly well-known figure in the neighborhood and a convicted felon with more than three dozen arrests dating to 1996.
Yet economic and racial diversity have visibly eluded city schools, with 87 percent of the district's 403,000 students coming from low-income families and more than 91 percent from minority households, records show.
The serious underenrollment problem the administration cites as a reason for closings is linked in large measure to an exodus from the city in recent years of middle-class African-American families.
That demographic reality was underscored by board member Mahalia Hines in casting her vote. She likened the problem facing city schools to a nervous dental patient deciding whether to put off necessary oral surgery.
"The decay is too much, and that's why so many middle-class African-Americans have left the city," she said, linking depopulation among blacks directly to problems of the schools.