By Jim Hagerty
ROCKFORD — A man jailed in an unrelated case has been charged with murder in the shooting death of a Jefferson High School student earlier this week.
Juan D. Mora, 24, of Rockford, is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated discharge of a firearm and possession of firearm without a valid firearm owner’s ID. His initial bond has been set at $10 million.
Mora is accused of killing 15-year-old Za’Shawn Coats. Coats was gunned down Monday in the 700 block of Kent Street. Police say the teen and a group of friends were walking near the corner of Kent and Ferguson when they were approached by a car and shots were fired from inside the vehicle. Coats was shot in the head and pronounced dead at the scene.
Coats was a sophomore at Jefferson.
“We have stop to the violence,” Winnebago County State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross said at press conference Friday. “We have to stop the silence in order to stop the violence. This victim was killed on Martin Luther King’s holiday at the age of 15. At the age of 15, Dr. Martin Luther King was graduating from high school and entering college. So, we want our children to have a future and to be safe.”
Mayor Tom McNamara commended the work of the Rockford Police Department and the Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Office.
“They work until they find a resolution to a case,” they mayor said. “And this case is no different and the amount of work they put in over the last several days is really tremendous.”
McNamara added: “A 15-year-old child should be worried about their studies, not their safety. We as a community need to come together, not just on weekends like Martin Luther King Day weekend. We need to come together every day throughout out city so we can take back not just that corner of Kent and Ferguson but our entire community and our city. And we do that by not being silent. When you see something, you say something and work with our policed department.”
Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea said detectives were assisted by community members in identifying Mora as a suspect.
“That’s what solves cases,” O’Shea said. “And when the mayor says they work tirelessly or around the clock, they literally work around the clock trying to resolve cases when they happen. And this case I know they were working around the clock. Anyone who allegedly commits murder, we don’t want on the streets.”
O’Shea would not comment about whether detectives are seeking other suspects.
First-degree murder is a Class M felony with a sentencing range of 20 years to life in prison.
Aggravated discharge of a firearm is a Class 1 felony, punishable by a sentence of four to 15 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections followed by two years of parole.
Possession of a firearm with a F.O.I.D. is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by probation or up to a year in jail.
Mora is scheduled to make his first court appearance at 9 a.m. Monday. R.