$200,000 Bond For Man Allegedly Connected To Accidental Deaths Of Officers
A Cook County judge on Thursday ordered a $200,000 bond for a Chicago man who authorities say led Officers Eduardo Marmolejo and Conrad Gary on a brief chase that ended in the officers’ deaths.
Prosecutors told the judge that Edward Brown, 24, went up to the train tracks near 103rd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue on Monday evening, and fired two shots: one into the air, the other at an empty school. Those shots triggered an alert from the Chicago Police Department’s Shotspotter technology. Marmolejo and Gary responded to the call and were fatally struck by a commuter train while they were searching for Brown on the tracks.
Brown is charged with reckless discharge of a firearm and unlawful gun possession, both felonies.
Assistant State’s Attorney Guy Lisuzzo said Brown was on his way home from work Monday when he stepped into an alley to pee and discovered a fanny pack on the ground with a gun and ammo inside. Brown took the gun home with him and then walked up to the train tracks to fire it.
According to prosecutors, after firing two shots, Brown started to head back down to the street, but turned around and went back up to the tracks when he saw the officers’ police SUV. The two officers followed him and were hit by a South Shore train going at least 60 miles per hour.
Brown kept running and was stopped by two other officers. He told them he had a gun and turned it over.
“It was not until the two officers and the defendant were almost at the 5th District police station that they learned that officers Gary and Marmolejo had been on the tracks and were killed by the train,” Lisuzzo said.
Several family members were in court Thursday to support Brown during his bond hearing.
The decision by Judge Stephanie Miller to set a $200,000 bond means Brown’s family would have to come up with $20,000 in order to get him out of jail while he awaits trial. Brown’s attorney, Frank Kostouros, said they will not be able to afford that and they plan to ask the judge for a reduced bond.
Before the judge set a bond, Kostouros pleaded with Miller to release Brown while he awaits trial, despite the public attention on the case.
Brown has no criminal record, and Kostouros said he has never been arrested before.
Kostouros called it a “completely unforeseeable and unfortunate series of events” that resulted in the deaths of two “hero” officers. But he said his client was a good kid who made a mistake.
“His curiosity got the best of him,” Kostouros told the judge. “He went to the train tracks to be away from people.”
‘People think that you’re the police and you don’t have feelings’
The deaths of Gary and Marmolejo come at the end of an especially tragic year for the Chicago Police Department.
Four officers have been in killed in the line of duty this year, the most since 2010. Another four died by suicide.
That tragedy has been especially concentrated in the department’s 5th District, where Gary and Marmolejo worked.
This year, two officers committed suicide in the 5th District station parking lot on the Far South Side of Chicago. Another officer died after collapsing inside the station.
Fifth District officer Samanthia Smith said she assumed those deaths would be the lowest point for the district. Now, with Gary and Marmelo’s deaths, Smith said, “It’s like a dark cloud over us.”
“I’m still grieving the other people that were lost in the 5th district,” Smith said. “And what’s really, really, really bugging me (is that) all the people that we’ve lost were just genuinely good people.”
Smith is a field training officer, which means she trains new officers out on the streets. She said she was assigned to train Gary right after he got out of the academy.
“And my first ones I always call them my babies because they’re so fresh on the job,” Smith said. “Normally when they’re first on the job I have to question a lot of things they do. And I tell them it’s nothing personal, it’s just that I know that you don’t know how to be the police right now. But with him it was like he was a natural, this job was for him.”
Gary, 31, and Marmolejo, 36, were both fathers. Marmolejo had three daughters, the oldest in high school. Gary’s daughter is six months old.
Combined, the two officers had been with the department for less than four years.
Marmolejo used to work in the emergency room at Christ Hospital, according to a GoFundMe page set up for his family and verified by the police department.
Smith said she only worked with Marmolejo a few times, but he had a reputation at the station as a jokester. She was closer with Gary, because of her time training him.
“It’s unfortunate that people think that you’re the police, you don’t have feelings, but this one is really hard for me, although I’ve lost others at the station that were just as hard for me. But this one here, it was my baby, so I think I’m taking this one a little more personal,” Smith said. “This is a really bad loss for the city, really bad. He was going to be a phenomenal officer.”
‘There, but for the grace of God, go I’
Gary’s funeral is set for Friday morning; Marmolejo’s will be Saturday.
Both funerals are being held at the chapel at St. Rita of Cascia High School on the city’s Southwest Side, not far from where Gary and Marmolejo lived.
The school CEO, Fr. Paul Galetto, said they will be the fourth and fifth funerals for first responders held this year at the school’s chapel.
“The first responders in the city of Chicago, many of them are part of the St. Rita family … and we’re glad to be able to do whatever we can to console them and help them in these most difficult times,” Galetto said.
He said it’s clear the deaths have taken a toll on St. Rita’s community and the surrounding neighborhoods, which are home to many police officers and firefighters.
“They realize, there but for the grace of God go I,” Galetto said of those first responders. “They care for each other. And I’m awed by what I see at times, especially in the moments of grief and sorrow.”
Patrick Smith reports on criminal justice for WBEZ. Follow him @pksmid.