Fisher called the case “a horrible situation where a very young child was shot and killed,” but questioned why Willis was not charged until two months after the alleged crime.

“I suppose the only thing that could exacerbate the situation would be to prematurely charge somebody for that offense,” Fisher told reporters. “I’m sure the police were diligent from  the very beginning, and now all of a sudden either new witnesses…were discovered, or perhaps there are old witnesses that are making new stories.”

Rev. Corey Brooks, who has acted as a spokesman for the Watkins family since the day of the shooting, organized a press conference with Jonathan Watkins at his South Side church.

 

Watkins said he was "happy" to learn that charges had been brought in the shooting death but wouldn't discuss the case further.

Watkins said he didn't know the man who was charged but also said he believes the man is indeed the shooter. Who would not say why he believes it, or if he got a look at the shooter.

Watkins also said that he was changing Jonylah's diaper right before the shooting occurred. He said he had just lifted her up "to kiss her, and the windows start coming out," as bullets flew in.

Watkins denied reports that he had been less than cooperative with police.

"That ain't true," he said. "That's why when I got out (of the hospital), I went straight to the police station."

Watkins said the ordeal had made him "a whole different person."

"I'm working now, I don't stand on corners no more," Watkins said, but Brooks stopped him from telling reporters where he was working, or even what type of job he has.

Brooks said that he had called the press conference because Watkins "felt like he was getting a raw deal," because of reports that he has gang ties.

But it was Brooks who did most of the talking, from criticizing reporters for the press coverage of Jonylah's death, to insisting that Watkins would not answer any questions relating to the pending case or what happened on the day of the shooting.

"You equate a young 19-year-old boy or a young 13-year-old boy in a gang, and he grows up and he becomes an adult, he's no longer in a gang, you still see him as a gang banger or as a gang member and that is so far from the truth," Brooks said.

Watkins said he is no longer in a gang, and hasn't been for about 10 years.

Watkins was asked repeatedly about how he felt about the allegation that the shooting was a retaliation for a burglary committed by him, but Brooks said he could not answer the question.

Regarding the alleged burglary, Brooks said "there's more to the case," that what police have said publicly.

"I'm sure when the trial comes, you all are going to find out what needs to be said about that," Brooks said.

Like Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old high school student fatally shot less than two months earlier, Jonylah made national headlines as yet another young victim of gun violence in Chicago.

More than 500 people were killed in the city last year, the vast majority by gunfire. It was the first time Chicago passed that number since 2008.

jmeisner@tribune.com

jgorner@tribune.com

kgeiger@tribune.com