Catrell Walls is a Chicago man who was arrested after police said he sexually assaulted his 7-year-old cousin in front of her online class. Chicago police said the 18-year-old Walls is being charged with a felony count of predatory criminal sexual assault of a victim under 13, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
The incident occurred at around 1:30 p.m. on Thursday in the 200 block of East 89th Place in West Chesterfield, on the South Side, police said. After Walls was seen sexually abusing the young girl on video during an online learning session with Chicago Public Schools, police officers responded to the home and arrested him. The victim was brought to Comer Children’s Hospital, the outlet wrote.
Public records show that Walls is currently being held in jail in Chicago with a court appearance scheduled for Monday. A judge denied his bail on Saturday.
Here’s what you need to know about Catrell Walls:
1. The Incident Was Caught on Video During a Break in the Girl’s Online Learning, Prosecutors Say
According to Cook County prosecutors, the encounter was caught on video during a break in the victim’s online course, the Chicago Sun-Times reported from Walls’ bail hearing. The outlet reported that the 7-year-old girl and a few other students were logged on to a Google Meet session and the teacher was working from a nearby computer during a break in class.
The girl’s microphone was muted but the camera was on, and prosecutors said the teacher heard other students asking, “What is going on? What is happening?” The teacher looked at the screen for the online class and said she saw the 7-year-old child being sexually assaulted. Prosecutors said she quickly told the other students to log off and began calling the girl’s name, telling her to turn off the camera. At that point, she said she saw Walls close the laptop.
The outlet reported that the teacher contacted the school’s principal, who in turn called the young student’s family, the police and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
2. Prosecutors Say Walls Admitted to Assaulting Her & the Girl Told the School Principal That It Wasn’t the First Assault
After the teacher witnessed the incident, the victim’s father, the principal and the chief executive officer for the school went to the girl’s home to speak to her. According to the Chicago Tribune, prosecutors told the judge at the bail hearing that the girl initially told them that Walls “just hit her” and it was a “secret.”
However, when she spoke with the principal without her family around, she described the sexual assault and admitted that it had happened before, prosecutors explained. According to the Tribune, Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Andreana Turano said during the hearing, “The victim disclosed ‘he made me put my lips on [him] and this has happened before, and I don’t want my daddy to know, it’s a secret.’”
The court also heard from prosecutors that during Walls’ interview with investigators, he admitted to assaulting her since she turned 6. They said that Walls began crying and said, “I don’t know why, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
Prosecutors also said that the sexual assault happened when Walls was on bond after being charged with unlawful use of a weapon, a felony, in an unrelated incident. In denying his bail, Judge Charles Beach said, “This ongoing history of assault, for approximately a year, according to the victim, leads me to believe this is not something that will just stop because I have ordered it to. This history and his actions from this case lead me to believe that he is a threat to an individual and the community as a whole.”
3. Walls’ Defense Attorney Says His Client Is a High School Senior Who Has Been Diagnosed With a Disorder
During the bail hearing, Walls’ attorney told the court that his client is a high school senior who wants to graduate. His attorney argued that Walls is not a flight risk, the Tribune reported, as he works 40 hours a week in construction and has “extensive family ties.” He also said that Walls has no history of sexual or violent crimes.
According to the Sun-Times, Walls has also been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, “somewhat of a disability,” his lawyer said, which sometimes affects his ability to keep his impulses in check.
4. Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson Addressed the Incident During a Press Conference on Friday
During a press conference on an unrelated topic, CEO of Chicago Public Schools Janice Jackson addressed the incident, calling it “disturbing.” Jackson said the district had made strides in the past few years in supporting students who are victims of sexual assault and teachers are important resources in identifying problems that students may be experiencing.
Jackson said that’s why it’s important that kids return to school as soon as possible where teachers can keep an eye on students: “This situation is definitely disturbing and something that has been unsettling to me personally since I heard about it. But I also think it just makes me more committed to seeing our kids back in school, under the watchful eyes of their teachers who care for them deeply,” the Sun-Times wrote.
The Tribune reported that Jackson also said:
DCFS has already reported a dramatic decrease in the number of cases reported. … We know these things have not stopped occurring, but what has happened is there are fewer watchful eyes looking at students, connecting with students to make sure that they’re safe.
5. A Mother Was Shot & Killed During a 10-Year-Old Girl’s Zoom Class Earlier This Year
Since online learning has become the norm during the COVID-19 pandemic, other incidents have occurred at students’ homes and been captured on video or audio. On August 11, a woman was shot and killed in Florida while her children were home, including her 10-year-old daughter who was on a school Zoom call.
According to police officers, 32-year-old Maribel Rosado Morales was killed while her 10-year-old daughter was on a Zoom call for school and her computer was hit by a bullet. Martin County Sheriff William Snyder said, “The teacher’s statement is that she heard a commotion, knew it was some kind of confrontation, muted it and then watched the 10-year-old put her hands up to her ears.” He added that a bullet hit the girl’s computer and the screen went blank.
In another case in Milwaukee in September 2020, 52-year-old Michelle Blackmon was shot and killed by her brother, according to police, while a 9-year-old girl in the home was attending virtual school. WFTV reported that a Milwaukee Public Schools student was in an online classroom during the shooting and “everyone could hear it.”