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Man pleads guilty to carrying gun he test-fired, unwittingly drawing 2 Chicago police officers to their deaths on Metra tracks

Megan Crepeau, Chicago Tribune on

Published in News & Features

When he left for the appointment, he accidentally left the fanny pack on the ground in the alley, Assistant State’s Attorney Andrew Varga said in court Wednesday.

Brown, on his way home from work, found the fanny pack in the alley and took it, Varga said. He took out the gun and walked to the Metra station near 103rd Street, where he fired it three times: once in the air, once down the tracks and once in the direction of a nearby elementary school, Varga said.

“I was just trying it out,” Brown told detectives, according to police reports.

The gunshots were detected by the police’s ShotSpotter system, and several officers responded to the area, including Marmolejo and Gary. They climbed up a gravel embankment to the tracks, where they saw Brown heading south and tried to follow him.

They stayed on the tracks used by southbound trains because they saw a northbound train approaching, police said at the time. They were unaware they were in the path of another train.

An engineer on one of the trains saw a silhouette and heard a thumping and immediately hit his emergency brakes, a police report said.

 

Meanwhile, other officers arrested Brown and took him to a police station, unaware that Marmolejo and Gary had been fatally struck. After finding the pistol, Brown told detectives that he discarded the fanny pack on the roof of a garage near his residence. Detectives located the bag on the roof and found the owner’s FOID card inside.

Ultimately, prosecutors determined they could not reasonably charge Brown with the officers’ deaths. He faced instead several counts of unlawful use of a weapon and reckless discharge, all but one of which were dropped as part of his plea agreement.

Brown’s attorney Frank Kostouros said little during Wednesday’s hearing, but at Brown’s initial appearance in bond court he had called his client “devastated” by the officers’ deaths.

Brown had thought it would be safer to go to the train tracks to fire the gun, the lawyer said.

“This is a completely unforeseeable and unfortunate series of events,” Kostouros said at the time. “He wasn’t gangbanging. It was just the worst of luck.’'

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