DETROIT (AP) – Police in Detroit are hoping members of the urban artistic community can help solve the slaying of a French street artist whose body was found last summer amid the ruins of the city’s most notorious housing project.
Bilal Berreni, 23, was identified earlier this month after his fingerprints were run through a federal database, the Detroit Free Press reported Friday.
Berreni had been shot in the face and found on a street July 29 at the Frederick Douglass Homes. The massive complex of brick buildings north of downtown has been empty since 2008 and is currently being demolished.
No identification or passport was found and Berreni’s body, which went unidentified until Michigan State Police received a hit on his fingerprints.
“We’re happy that we solved the identification, but now it’s an unsolved homicide,” state police detective Sarah Krebs said.
Police are looking into whether Berreni may have been robbed.
Bilal’s father, Mourad Berreni, told the newspaper through a translator that his son’s art had a social message and that he was drawn to Detroit.
“From what I understand, he was interested in what can be born out of chaos,” Mourad Berreni said Thursday from Paris. “For him, it represented the failure of capitalism and believed that from that chaos something can be born.”
Bilal painted large pieces in black and white on buildings, his father added.
The young artist was in Detroit in 2012 and returned last year. He occasionally may have lived as a squatter in vacant structures, his father said.
On July 23, Bilal emailed home for medical records because his allergies were acting up, said Mourad Berreni.
The family reached out to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs in January when they noticed no activity on Bilal’s bank account.
Authorities in Detroit are working with the French consulate while seeking information about the slaying, city police Sgt. Mike Woody said.
“The message that we really want to get out to our citizens, and especially to the art community, is they lost an icon or a potential icon, somebody that was really up and coming in their field,” Woody said. “We really want to work hard to try and find out who the killer is and get them into custody.”
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