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Trial underway for 2018 Bloomington double homicide

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Hammet Brown appears in McLean County Court to face charges in connection with the murders of Taneshiea Brown, 20, and Steven Alexander Jr., 18, and the attempted murders of Kenleia Sims and Tyree Jones, who were both injured by gunfire on June 10, 2018 on Orchard Road.

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BLOOMINGTON — Opening statements and testimony began Monday in a bench trial for a June 2018 double homicide on Orchard Road in Bloomington.

Hammet D. Brown, 29, is charged with six counts of first degree murder and two counts of attempted first degree murder, and faces up to natural life in prison if convicted.

Taneshiea Brown, 20, and Steven C. Alexander Jr., 18, were fatally wounded in the shooting, and Kenleia Sims and Tyree Jones survived their injuries.

Hammet Brown pleaded not guilty to the crime in July 2018 after he was arrested June 26, 2018 in Chicago.

Hammet D. Brown

Hammet Brown, 26, of the 1200 block of Orchard Road, Bloomington, was charged in a warrant as of June 26, 2018, with six counts of murder in the June 10 shooting deaths of Taneshiea A. Brown, 20, and Steven C. Alexander Jr., 18, and two counts of attempted murder in the wounding of Kenleia Sims and Tyree Jones. All were shot while reportedly attending a party outside an apartment building at 1221 Orchard, police said. The bond on the warrant was set at $3 million. 

Hammet Brown waived his right to a jury trial last week and proceeded with a bench trial. Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court Judge Casey Costigan should deliver a verdict sometime next week.

Assistant State’s Attorney Mary Lawson said the shooting occurred about 1 a.m. during an outdoor party at an apartment building at 1221 Orchard Road.

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Lawson said the party was calm and there were no arguments or altercations that night prior to the shooting.

Sims testified in court Monday that she was standing in a circle with Alexander, Jones and Taneshiea Brown when Hammet Brown walked directly through their group without saying anything and proceeded into a small cutaway between two apartment buildings. About a minute or two later, Sims said, Hammet Brown walked back and started firing gunshots directly at Alexander at first, "then started letting it go."

Defense lawyer Mark Zalcman argued that Hammet Brown, who lived at a nearby apartment, acted in self-defense. He said drug and gang activity is what led up to the altercation.

Zalcman accused Alexander as “the cause of all this tragedy,” after he allegedly saw Hammet Brown selling marijuana on a street corner a few weeks prior to the shooting.

“He (Alexander) took exception to this. Apparently it was on his turf and he didn’t like what my client was doing. Angry words were exchanged and he told him basically to get lost,” Zalcman said.

Lawson, however, said Hammet Brown was upset that the victims were in his area.

“At the conclusion of this trial, we’re confident that the evidence will paint a clear picture as to what occurred on June 10, 2018 at approximately 1:06 a.m.,” Lawson said. “The defendant would not tolerate these boys coming to his turf and as such he made them pay the ultimate price.”

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Zalcman accused Alexander of harassing Hammet Brown and tailgating his car on the road as Hammet Brown drove home.

“The occupants of the vehicle that were following him rolled by and screamed at him, ‘We see you. We be out here,’” Zalcman said.

He said Hammet Brown later identified some of the people in the car to be Alexander and Jones, and learned they were allegedly part of a local gang.

Members of the gang allegedly shot at Hammet Brown’s car a couple weeks before the June 10, 2018 shooting, leading to Hammet Brown beginning to carry a gun, Zalcman said.

Zalcman accused Alexander and Jones of cornering Hammet Brown in a cutaway between two of the apartment buildings during the party.

He accused Alexander of pulling out a revolver at Hammet Brown and saying “We finally got you," but that contradicts what Sims and Jones testified to Monday.

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“As terrible as it sounds, my client was prepared for action and he did what he had to do so he would still be standing here today,” Zalcman said.

The court also heard from the first two Bloomington police officers at the scene that night.

They described the scene as “very chaotic” and many people running around and screaming.

Bloomington police officer Tyler Elston said they were already in the area when they heard gunshots. The officers arrived on scene in less than five minutes.

Elston testified that no weapons were found on Alexander or anywhere on the scene. Other witnesses testified that they never saw any other weapons at the party.

The state subpoenaed 53 witnesses for the trial, but indicated not all may testify.


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