Two Detroit men to stand trial for death of French street artist

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 09, 2015 5:27 PM

By Serena Maria Daniels

DETROIT (Reuters) - A judge ruled on Friday that two Detroit men accused in the murder of a 23-year-old French street artist will stand trial for his 2013 shooting death.

Jasin Curtis, 18, and Dionte Travis, 19, had been losing money in a dice game when they decided to rob Bilal Berreni, who was found shot in the face on July 29, 2013, at a vacant high-rise housing project near downtown Detroit, according to police testimony at a hearing on Friday.

Detroit Judge Michael Wagner is scheduled on Tuesday to review more evidence involving a third man, Drequone Rich, 20, accused in the murder to decide whether he will go to trial.

The three men all face robbery, murder and firearms charges. A fourth suspect has also been charged, but is appearing in juvenile court.

Known by his street moniker “Zoo Project,” Paris native Berreni began painting murals at age 15. He eventually traveled to Tunisia and painted walls with images of the faces of Tunisian revolutionaries and Libyan refugees on the border between the two countries, according to, a website for culture services of the French Embassy.

Berreni's father, Mourad Berreni, told the Detroit Free Press last year his son created artwork with social messages and was drawn to the bankrupt Michigan city, long troubled by poverty and crime.

Before the murder, the suspects were playing dice and losing money when they headed toward the abandoned Brewster housing projects to "run a lick" - that is, rob someone, according to Travis' statement to police, which was read aloud in court.

Travis told police he initially did not want to join the others, but relented and served as a lookout.

The suspects found Berreni near a basketball court, apparently skateboarding, according to police testimony. Police said the suspects robbed Berreni of $200 and split it.

Berreni's body was not positively identified for several months, and police had to send his fingerprints to a federal database.

Several of Berreni's friends attended Friday's court hearing. They belonged to the Detroit artist collective Adult Contemporary, which had included Berreni as a member.

Travis and Curtis have a court hearing on Jan. 16.

(Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Will Dunham)