Bilal Berreni, a French street artist, was found fatally shot in Detroit in July. He was 23. His remains were unidentified and at the Wayne County morgue until earlier this month, when he was identified. / Courtesy Bilal Berreni's family
DETROIT - It took months for Bilal Berreni's remains to be identified at the morgue.
Investigators dug into the French street artist's fatal shooting at a dilapidated housing project, while Berreni's friends and loved ones waited for answers.
On Wednesday, the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office announced that three people have been charged with murder and armed robbery in the 23-year-old's death.
"It sickens me that a young, talented artist who had traveled the world to pursue his passion was murdered here, thus reinforcing the stereotypes for many about our city of Detroit," Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a statement. "We will do everything that we possibly can under the law to bring the killers of Mr. Berreni to justice."
Jasin R. Curtis, 18, Dionte D. Travis, 17, and Drequone L. Rich, 20, were charged with felony murder, armed robbery, being a felon in possession of a firearm and using a firearm in a felony in connection with Berreni's death in July 2013. All three have been arraigned and are scheduled to be in court Sept. 11 for a preliminary examination, according to the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office.
"It is alleged that the defendants robbed and killed Berreni," Maria Miller, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office, said in a news release.
She said a 14-year-old, in custody in the Wayne County Juvenile Detention Facility, is expected to be charged Thursday in connection with Berreni's death.
Alexandra Gilder, one of the friends Berreni made in Detroit, was emotional upon hearing people had been charged in his killing.
"I can't help but, like, try to imagine their faces," she said of those charged. "I think that will be a very emotional moment for me to see that. To put faces to this terrible incident."
Berreni's remains were identified at the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office in March, months after his body was found with no identification.
Detroit Police Chief James Craig said that any time it takes a long time to identify a victim, "it certainly has a devastating effect on how quickly we can resolve and identify a suspect." There was good investigative follow-up, he said.
Before coming to the U.S., Berreni created large-scale, black-and-white paintings on buildings in Paris under the alias Zoo Project, went to Tunisia and painted images of those who died during the revolution, went to a camp on the Libyan border and painted images of refugees and traveled across Europe making a film with a friend.
His father, Mourad Berreni, previously said through a translator that his son "was an enlightened being, pure, who did not make any concession with society."
Two years ago, Bilal Berreni came to the U.S., where he hopped freight trains, eventually getting arrested in Ohio.
Berreni came to Detroit in September 2012, his parents said. He lived with tenants in the Griswold lofts in Capitol Park.
In October, his parents said, Berreni went back to France to finish a film and, a few months later, came back to Detroit. He traveled across the country, eventually returning to the Griswold lofts. While in Detroit, according to his friends, Berreni was known to visit the vacant Brewster-Douglass housing project, which is being demolished.
Andrew Roberts, one of the men Berreni lived with in Detroit last year, previously said he saw Berreni on the afternoon of July 28, 2013, but when he returned that night, his friend was gone.
Berreni's body was found July 29, 2013, police have said. He was identified by fingerprints taken during his arrest in Ohio.
Roberts said he hopes the announcement of charges brings some peace to Berreni's family. He said he feels some relief, but wants his friend back.
"Retribution just kind of rings hollow," Roberts said. "At the end of everything, I still lost my friend."
Contributing: Elisha Anderson of the Detroit Free Press
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