Man, 18, charged in fatal shooting of beloved Rauner College Prep student

A Chicago man was charged Thursday in the fatal shooting of a freshman at Rauner College Prep this January in the Noble Square neighborhood.

Tremell D. Neloms, 18, was accused of gunning down 15-year-old Caleb Westbrooks while he was trying to catch a bus blocks away from his school on Jan. 18 in the 800 block of North Greenview Avenue.

Caleb Westbrooks tried to run away, but suffered a gunshot wound to the chest and left arm, police said. He was transported to Stroger Hospital in critical condition but later died from his injuries.

Neloms was arrested Wednesday in Calumet City and charged with first-degree murder.

He was ordered held without bail Thursday.

Caleb's father, Corneal Westbrooks, said he is grateful for the witnesses and neighbors who provided surveillance video to make the case against Neloms. But while the charges are good news, he said, it doesn’t bring back his son to him and his family.

"Our lives are devastated forever," Corneal Westbrooks said in a statement Friday. "I never knew that silence in my home could be so loud."

Corneal Westbrooks mourned the loss of his son in a statement the day after the shooting, saying his "world is shattered."

"Caleb was one of five teens shot in Chicago Tuesday. Five!" the statement reads. "Caleb also was the second student to be shot and killed walking home from school in less than a week. How did our city get here? Have Chicagoans become desensitized to the violence that permeates virtually every corner of our city?  

Unfortunately, this senseless violence is likely to continue unabated until the elected and appointed leadership of the city and county stop point pointing fingers at one another and take personal responsibility for the role they have played in the disintegration of the criminal justice system as well as the lack of critical mental health services in Chicago and Cook County."

The Rauner school community also grieved the loss of a beloved student.

"Caleb was a 9th grader with so much personality," Rauner College Prep Principal Brendan Bedell said in a statement. "He loved to crack a joke and always brought positivity and light to his classmates and teachers. Caleb touched so many lives in his time at Rauner."

Caleb played football for the Garfield Park Gators and was a wide receiver for the Illinois All Stars team, where he met head coach Neil Williams.

"He was a comedian," Williams told the Sun-Times. "I called him Sinbad because he reminded me of the comedian. But he didn’t have a clue who Sinbad was. He had to Google it to figure out who he was. He was a fun kid."

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.