The 20-year-old Evanston man who is charged with the shooting death of 14-year-old Evanston Township High School freshman Dajae Coleman is expected to enter a plea in Cook County Circuit Court in Skokie tomorrow.
Just four months earlier, when a judge heard evidence on prior criminal charges against Wesley Woodson for aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, she admonished him to “make a choice” with his life—but ruled that there was not enough evidence to convict him.
Woodson is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon in the death of Dajae Coleman Sept. 22. Police say Woodson, who is affiliated with the Gangster Disciples, mistook Coleman for someone he knew, and described the shooting as “a retaliatory act upon an innocent group of teens with no gang affiliations.”
Dajae Coleman: The Story So Far
In one of several prior criminal charges on his record, Woodson and another man, Evan Spaulding, were each charged with three counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon dating to the spring of 2011. A third man, William Perkins, was also charged separately.
According to a transcript of Woodson and Spaulding’s trial in June 2012, the three men threatened a local Evanston man and his sons with a gun in Butler Park on May 10, 2011. Judge Lauren Gottainer Edidin, who oversaw the bench trial, found both Woodson and Spaulding not guilty; Perkins was later convicted of carrying a firearm in public.
The father of the man Woodson allegedly threatened was hosting family and friends outdoors at his home near Butler Park that day, he told Judge Edidin, when he found out that a group of men, including Spaulding, were coming to confront his sons.
Both the sons and the father already knew Spaulding, and the sons had a history of disagreements with Spaulding, according to court records. When Spaulding and his group arrived at the family’s home, Spaulding said he was sick of one son’s “[expletive] with him,” the father told Judge Edidin. The father also told the judge that Spaulding said “Wesley Woodson was in town” and coming to his house to “get at” the man’s sons.
Soon after that interchange, Woodson joined the group on a bicycle, according to the father. He told the judge that he instructed Woodson and one of his sons to settle their differences “the old school way.”
“Box it out, let it be done, no one has to go to jail and the situation is over,” he recalled saying.
The father then overheard Spaulding tell Woodson that the father was “strapped,” meaning he had a gun on him, according to a transcript of the trial.
“Mr. Woodson stopped posturing with my son, stepped back, told Mr. Spaulding, ‘Call for the burner,’ which is a gun,” the father told the judge.
Woodson made a call on his cell phone, according to the father, and a third man, William Perkins, soon appeared with a black, semiautomatic gun.
A friend of the father’s sons struggled over the gun with Perkins, telling him not to shoot anyone, according to the father. He told the judge that he later saw Spaulding running back toward his home, holding something “black and shiny in his hand.” The father said he could not be certain it was a gun, however.
At that point, the father told Judge Edidin that he believed he saw Spaulding hand something black and shiny—possibly a gun—to Woodson, before the three ran away.
An Evanston police officer responding to a call about the incident told Judge Edidin that he saw four people running away from Butler Park as he was driving to the scene. He recognized them as Evan Spaulding, Wesley Woodson, William Perkins and another man who was not charged in the case. The officer said Perkins seemed to be holding something in his waistband.
When the officer got out of his squad car and told the group to stop and put up their hands, the four ran in different directions. The officer followed Perkins and saw him take a weapon from the waistband of his pants and throw it to the ground, according to the court transcript.
Another police detective later found the gun, a .40 caliber, semiautomatic black Steyr loaded with eight rounds in the magazine and one round in the gun chamber. Neither Woodson’s nor Spaulding’s fingerprints were found on the gun, according to the transcript.
Because the father who witnessed the incident was not certain he saw either Woodson or Spaulding with the gun, and there were no fingerprints tying them to the weapon, Edidin ruled both men not guilty, the papers said. In a separate trial, Perkins was convicted of carrying a weapon in public and is currently serving a two-year sentence.
Although she ruled that there was not enough evidence to convict Woodson, Edidin admonished him and Spaulding during the trial.
“You’ve got to cut it out,” she told them, according to the transcript. “I mean, you’ve got to make a choice of what you’re going to do. If you’re going to continue doing this, you’re going to see me or some of the other judges in the building very soon.”
Woodson will appear in Cook County Circuit Court in Skokie at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30, in room 105.