Juvenile reveals motive in French street artist's murder in Detroit

Bilal Berreni found shot to death in July 2013 near old Brewster-Douglass Projects

DETROIT – The 14-year-old boy charged in this case admitted to being part of a gang in the old Brewster-Douglass Projects area and that he knew his friends were going to rob and kill the victim.

An autopsy revealed French street artist Bilal Berreni's spine had been fractured, along with his ribs and arms. He had lacerations on multiple organs before being shot at close range in the face.

"In 30 years, I've never seen somebody cry like he cried. He's a troubled kid that knew right from wrong and he did wrong anyway," said Detroit police homicide Det. Ira Todd.

During his interrogation, the juvenile said the gang approached the victim demanding money. He said Berreni struggled to speak English as he was robbed of his backpack, debit cards and $300.

As three of the suspects walked away, the juvenile said Dionte Travis shot Berreni in the head.

"To see this young man involved with some other young men that are involved in all these violent crimes is scary," said Todd.

The juvenile admitted to trying to access the victim's bank account, and when the cards didn't work he cut them up and threw them away.

"You cannot make sense of it. I asked him, 'Was it worth it?' He said, 'No, it wasn't worth it,'" said Todd.

The juvenile is being treated as an adult and is charged with felony murder and armed robbery. Police say when the teen was asked why he and the others robbed and killed this man, he said he needed money.

He admitted to getting $50 for the murder, which he spent on weed and junk food.

Berreni, 23, had been living in Detroit when he was found dead July 4, 2013, with a gunshot wound to his head at St. Antoine and Alfred streets. It took months to identify him through fingerprints. He went by the alias "Zoo Project" and was known worldwide for his street paintings.

From left: Dreuone Rich, Dionte Travis and Jasin Curtis
From left: Dreuone Rich, Dionte Travis and Jasin Curtis

Dreuone Rich, Dionte Travis and Jasin Curtis all face felony murder, armed robbery, felon in possession of a firearm and felony firearm charges. They are scheduled to have a competency hearing on Oct. 9 before Judge Michael Wagner.

The 14-year-old went before Judge Virgil Smith on Thursday and was bound over and remanded to the Juvenile Detention Facility. His pretrial hearing is scheduled for Sept. 22.

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