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Man who fired shots at L train has mental illness, family says

The grandfather of the 25-year-old man who opened fire on a CTA Blue Line train with an assault rifle last week said he probably suffers from mental illness and his family had been trying to get help for him.

James Jones, 76, said he was shocked to hear that his grandson, Lorenzo Jones, had been charged with firing five shots at a train while standing on the platform at the La Salle stop in the Loop.

James Jones said he didn’t know where his grandson stayed between the occasional visits he paid to his parents and other family members, during which he would often ask for money.

“He stayed off by himself all the time, even while he was growing up. He was always talking to himself about things like spiders and Power Rangers. He wasn’t normal. He needed help,” said James Jones, who is retired and lives in the South Shore area.

“He’s never been in a gang. He was just a quiet guy, but there was something definitely off about him,” he said. “I never knew guns to fascinate him . . . I never would have thought this could happen in a 100 years.”

Police arrested Jones on Thursday shortly after the shooting at 11:20 a.m. No one was injured.

On Friday, a judge set his bail at $2 million.

He was charged with two counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and one count each of aggravated assault with the discharge of a firearm and possession of a stolen firearm, all felonies, according to police.

Prosecutors at Friday’s bond hearing said two witnesses saw Jones with the weapon, including the train operator and a 22-year-old woman on the platform. Jones offered no motive, prosecutors said.

Jones was armed with a “high point, blue-steel rifle,” with nine live rounds, plus one in the chamber, Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Erin Antonietti said.

“As the train approached, the defendant raised the weapon and fired the rifle five times at the train,” Antonietti said, noting that the bullets hit the front of the first car.

The train operator at first thought the train had “malfunctioned,” Antonietti said, but then he saw Jones holding the weapon.

The incident was captured on video surveillance, Antonietti said.

Jones’ criminal history includes five misdemeanors, including a 2013 conviction in which he illegally sold items on CTA property, Antonietti said.

Passenger John Langston, 50, said he was on his way home to the South Side when he heard a loud noise.

“I heard about four or five shots that hit the train,” Langston said. “Boom, boom, boom.”

He said police arrived a short time later and told passengers to get off the train. “It was frightening, and now I am lost,” he said.

At a news conference later in the day, Supt. Garry McCarthy confirmed that five shots were fired at the train but he wouldn’t speculate about the motive. He said the shooter had a FOID card and that the stock had been cut off the rifle.

“He fired a number of shots at the train, not an individual, which is perplexing,” McCarthy said. “We responded, we got the gun, we got him. It’s kind of bizarre behavior. I don’t know his motivations.”

Using CTA cameras, police tracked the man’s movements before the incident. McCarthy said the man boarded a train at La Salle, rode it for a while and eventually returned to the La Salle stop.

He waited there for a while, and when a train approached, he opened fire. Then the suspect took off running, but he was captured near State and Polk.