News & Opinion
34-year-old Tavis Dunbar has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of 23-year-old Jaylen Ausley, 27-year-old Devonta Vivetter, and 25-year-old Donald Huey after he intentionally hit four men with his car outside the Jewffery Pub, a Black-owned gay bar in Chicago. Dunbar is also charged with attempted-murder in connection to the victim who survived.
As Gaye previously reported, surveillance and dashcam videos showed the car the defendant was driving plow full-speed into the group. The horrific viral video caused an outrage for justice. One person later saw the graphic surveillance video on social media and recognized the car as Dunbar's, prosecutors said.
According to Dunbar's arrest report, he surrendered to police on Monday after witnesses and video footage identified him as the driver who intentionally hit four people outside Jeffery Pub near 71st Street and Jeffery Boulevard on Aug. 14. Ausley, Vivetter, and Huey were killed. A 21-year-old man who was hit survived, but sustained serious injuries to his leg.
In bond court Monday, prosecutors said Dunbar and all four victims had been in the Jeffery Pub, and the victims had gotten into a fight outside. A witness heard someone say to the victims, "I got something for you, you m****rf****rs," before walking to his car.
Chicago Police Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan said the car was registered to Dunbar's cousin and information from the car's "black box" showed the driver was speeding when he hit the four men.
"The gas pedal was completely deployed to the ground. Never attempted to tap the brakes when this incident occurred," Deenihan said.
According to CBS News, Police said, at this point, it appears the attack was random.
Deenihan said Dunbar was inside the bar before the attack, but was not involved in a later fight outside the bar.
"There was no altercation between the defendant and those individuals in the bar. There actually was no altercation in the bar, and out on the street, from the video evidence that we have, it does not appear that the people fighting on the street, that this offender was involved in that either. He went to his vehicle, and then he immediately caused this horrific act," Deenihan said.
Deenihan said Dunbar had not been charged with a hate crime, even though in the little more than a week since the crash, some activists have publicly questioned whether it was an intentional, homophobic attack, which took place outside the city’s oldest gay bar.
But legal experts say proving a hate crime in a court of law can be a tall order and that the charge or legal enhancement itself doesn’t necessarily add much in terms of prison sentence.
“I understand why people want to charge the hate crime aspect of something. It helps them feel better about what’s happening, but for the prosecutor’s side, (they have) to prove the crime,” said David Erickson, a veteran trial prosecutor at the Leighton Criminal Court Building and retired Illinois appellate judge who teaches criminal law at Chicago-Kent College of Law. Erickson explained prosecutors would have to prove the attacker’s specific motive for committing the crime.