4 people arrested in killing of French street artist at abandoned Detroit housing project

The Associated Press
September 3, 2014 11:39 AM

FILE - This Thursday, March 27, 2014 photo shows the area near the Frederick Douglass Homes in Detroit where the body of French street artist Bilal Berreni, 23, was found on July 29, 2013. On Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014, authorities said four people were arrested in the robbery and killing of Berreni. (AP Photo/Detroit Free Press, Mandi Wright)

DETROIT - Detroit police have arrested four people in the robbery and killing of a French street artist whose body was found in the ruins of an abandoned public housing project last year, authorities said Wednesday.

Prosecutor Kym Worthy filed first-degree murder charges against three young males and expects to charge a 14-year-old boy in the killing of 23-year-old Bilal Berreni, her office announced. Worthy says Berreni was killed during a robbery but has not provided additional details.

Berreni's body was found July 4, 2013, with a gunshot wound in the face. No identification was on his body, and it took seven months before Police identified him, using fingerprints.

"It sickens me that a young, talented artist who had travelled the world to pursue his passion was murdered here, thus reinforcing the stereotypes for many about our city of Detroit," Worthy said in a statement.

Dionte Travis, 17; Jasin Curtis, 18; and Drequone Rich, 20, were arraigned last week and ordered jailed pending a probable cause hearing Sept. 11, Worthy said. It wasn't immediately known if they have lawyers.

Worthy said she expects to charge the 14-year-old Thursday.

Mourad Berreni told the Detroit Free Press in March that his son's art had a social message and that he was drawn to Detroit.

"For him, it represented the failure of capitalism and (he) believed that from that chaos something can be born," Mourad Berreni said from Paris.

Bilal Berreni painted large pieces in black and white on buildings, his father said.

The artist was in Detroit in 2012 and returned in 2013. He occasionally may have lived as a squatter in vacant structures, his father said.

Berreni grew up in Paris and began painting on walls in his neighbourhood at age 15, according to French media reports. He later graduated from an applied arts school, then left to pursue his work around the world. He signed his work under the name the Zoo Project, gaining attention in 2011 through work in Tunisia in which he made life-size pictures of people killed in unrest in that North African nation.

Berreni was in Detroit in 2012 and returned in 2013. His father said he occasionally may have lived as a squatter in vacant structures.

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Follow David N. Goodman at http://twitter.com/davidngoodman


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