A man has been charged with murder and attempted murder in connection with the August fatal shooting of 7-year-old Serenity Broughton and the wounding of her sister, 6-year-old Aubrey Broughton.
Aaron Luster, 24, was arrested Wednesday in the basement of his grandmother's home in Riverside, police Superintendent David Brown said during a news conference at police headquarters.
Luster was expected to appear in bond court Thursday.
The case is one that Chicago police and Cook County prosecutors have sparred over after a suspect was arrested last month.
The girls were in a parked car near their grandmother's home in the 6200 block of West Grand Avenue in the Belmont Cragin community when they were shot Aug. 15, about 2:50 p.m.
"These charges are the beginning, we hope, of bringing some measure of closure to the grieving family of these two innocent little girls who were sitting in a parked car when they were struck by gunfire," Brown said. "Because of this senseless gun violence, far too many parents in our city are grieving for a murdered child like Serenity, or praying for their recovery of serious wounds like Aubrey."
Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan said investigators believe the target in the shooting was a family member "who is part of that house."
"And unfortunately as you can see all too often, these guys … they just pull up, and they're in an alley, and they just start firing their handguns in that direction," he said.
There was chaos and confusion all around when the shots were fired, the girls' paternal grandmother told the Tribune last month, but in the back seat of their parents' vehicle, they clung to one another.
"They were hugging," said Regina Broughton. "When they separated and pulled apart, there was blood on both of them."
Serenity had been shot in the chest, a bullet clipping her heart, her grandmother said. A bullet also hit Aubrey in the chest, Broughton said.
"Aubrey, the bullet ruptured her lung and she had to be intubated," Regina Broughton said. "Serenity's injury was fatal. The bullet pierced her heart - she didn't have a chance."
Serenity was a natural redhead with a radiant smile who "liked everything," and who would have been starting the first grade.
"She was vibrant. She was inquisitive and very, very intelligent. She was just a bright child, a bright spirit. She took to people, she would talk to everyone. I'd tell her, 'Don't talk to strangers,' but she was always so open, bubbly and welcoming to anyone she came across. Everyone gravitated to her," Regina Broughton said.
Detectives are still asking for the public's help in identifying two others involved in the shooting, Deenihan said.
"So there's another individual in the alley that we believe is discharging a firearm and then there's the driver of the vehicle, who flees," he said.
No gun has been recovered, Deenihan said.
Wednesday's announcement comes after Cook County prosecutors rejected felony charges against Luster in late August, saying evidence against him had weaknesses, the Tribune reported last month.
Police initially tried to override prosecutors' decision and intended to take the case to court, but prosecutors indicated they would dismiss the case. Police eventually backed away in part to avoid a public fight with State's Attorney Kim Foxx's office, sources said in September.
A spokesperson for the Cook County state's attorney's office at the time said there was agreement on the handling of the case.
"After a thorough review of the information presented to us by police, we concluded that the evidence was insufficient to meet our burden of proof to file murder charges at this time, and the police agreed with this decision," said Tandra Simonton of Foxx's office in September.
Brown and Deenihan both commended the detectives whose work led to the charges.
"Detectives were dogged in their pursuit of justice in this case," Brown said.
"I want to assure the family that detectives' hard work will continue until all of the offenders in this incident are arrested and held accountable for this terrible crime," Brown added.