Trial Begins for Third Suspect in Murder of Street Artist in Detroit

Bilal Berreni, family photograph Photo via: Detroit Free Press
Bilal Berreni, family photograph Photo via: Detroit Free Press
Dionte Travis denies involvement in the murder. Photo: Regina H. Boone via Detroit Free Press

Dionte Travis denies involvement in the murder.
Photo: Regina H. Boone via Detroit Free Press

The trial of an 18-year-old man involved in the murder the French street artist Bilal Berreni in 2013 began in Detroit last Thursday. The teen faces felony murder, armed robbery, and weapons charges.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Dionte Travis, one of three suspects in the murder case, insists that he did not kill Berreni. In a police interrogation he reportedly admitted to acting as lookout in a robbery that ultimately led to the artist’s murder.

The two other suspects, 19-year-old Jasin Curtis and 21-year-old Drequone Rich, have both pleaded guilty to second degree murder in seperate trials, and were each sentenced to 23-40 years in prison.

Bilal Berreni, family photograph Photo via: Detroit Free Press

Bilal Berreni, family photograph
Photo via: Detroit Free Press

Travis’s attorney Robert Plumpe refutes the suspect’s involvement in the killing, claiming that his client’s police statement was “not true” and that he “has been through the nightmare of a false charge.”

Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor, Brian Surma, told the court that over the course of the interrogation the suspect gave police several different accounts before admitting that he was paid $20 to act as a lookout.

Prosecutors presented a video as evidence, in which the suspect also revealed that a total of $80 was stolen and that he ran after hearing a gunshot.

One of Berreni's works in Tunis Photo via: Chezmaya

One of Berreni’s works in Tunis
Photo via: Chezmaya

Berreni’s body was discovered in the now demolished Brewster-Douglass housing projects on July 29, 2013. Wayne Country Medical Examiner Lokman Sung testified that the young artist was shot in the face and suffered injuries and fractures to his spine that may have resulted from a fall or a car accident. It took seven months to identify the body.

Berreni, whose street alias was Zoo Project, traveled the world and created politically engaged art. In Tunisia, he painted images of those who had fallen during the revolution, according to the DFP. He also traveled to the Lybian border where he painted and taught refugees.

“He was an enlightened being, pure, who did not make any concession with society,” the artist’s father, Mourad Berreni, told the DFP. “He felt that he had to say what he believed.”

Related stories:

Trio Charged With Murdering French Street Artist in Detroit


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