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Three Detroit men charged in murder of French street artist

By Carrie Cunningham

DETROIT (Reuters) - Three Detroit men have been charged with the robbery and murder last year of a 23-year-old French street artist, prosecutors said on Wednesday.

Jasin Curtis, 18; Dionte Travis, 17; and Drequone Rich, 20, face robbery, murder and felony firearms charges in the death of Bilal Berreni, who was found shot in the head on July 29, 2013 at a vacant high rise housing project.

"It sickens me that a young, talented artist who had traveled the world to pursue his passion was murdered here, thus reinforcing the stereotypes for many about our City of Detroit," said Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.

Born in Paris, Berreni, also known as "Zoo Project," began covering the walls of his neighborhood with murals when he was just 15 years old, according to frenchculture.org, the website for Culture Services of the French Embassy.

Berreni also had traveled to Tunisia, and painted walls with the faces of Tunisian revolutionaries and Libyan refugees on the border between the two countries, frenchculture.org said.

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

Prosecutors said a 14-year-old male also has been arrested and is expected to be charged with the murder on Thursday.

A preliminary court hearing is scheduled for Sept. 11.

(Reporting by Carrie Cunningham in Detroit; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Sandra Maler)

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