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NU Ph.D. grad charged with pushing man onto Blue Line tracks in Loop

Chad M. Estep | Chicago Police

The man who pushed a stranger onto the Blue Line tracks in an apparently unprovoked attack in August is a Chicago neuroscientist, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Chad M. Estep, 34, who completed his doctorate at Northwestern University this spring, was charged with attempted murder, after being “positively identified” as the suspect who pushed a 46-year-old man at the Washington Blue Line Station on August 1, according to Chicago Police.

Chicago Transit Authority surveillance video and cell phone records showed that Estep was at the L platform at the time of the attack, Assistant State’s Attorney Erin Antonetti said Tuesday during a bond hearing at the Leighton Criminal Court House.

Judge Michael Clancy ordered Estep held on $200,000 bond, substantially more than the $5,000 Estep’s private attorney, Vadim Glozman of the Genson & Associates law firm, said he could afford to pay. Estep, wearing a flannel shirt and jeans, peered anxiously as he entered the courtroom, glancing back briefly at the sound of crying child in the gallery.

The victim, a 46-year-old man, was waiting to board a train just before noon at the station at 19 N. Dearborn St., after attending a Cubs game, Antonetti said. Surveillance shows the man walking past Estep as Estep leans against a pillar. Video also shows Estep talking on his phone, and looking at the victim as he passes.

The two men did not to interact until Estep “lined up” and shoved the victim onto the tracks, where he landed just inches from the electrified third rail.

After shoving the man off the platform, Estep blocked him from climbing up from the tracks. The man called for help, and eventually, Samaritans blocked Estep and helped the man up onto the platform. The man returned home before reporting the incident to police, Antonetti said. Estep was identified by police based on anonymous tips and a comparison of still images taken from the surveillance footage and Estep’s picture on his online resume, Antonetti.

After Estep was taken into custody Monday, he was identified by the victim, Antonetti said. Estep has no prior criminal record, Antonetti said.

Glozman said he has “serious concerns” about how his client was identified as the attacker months after the incident.

“It’s a shame Mr. Estep has to go through all this,” Glozman told reporters outside the courtroom. “The allegations put forth by the state are extremely serious, and as far as I could see there’s very little evidence against Mr. Estep.”

Glozman said Estep completed his doctorate from Northwestern in March, works as a data analyst, and “lives quietly with his wife.”

“He’s a productive member of society,” Glozman said. “This is a very sad and traumatic experience going on right now.”