Suspect in Lincoln Park shooting was involved in at least 4 other armed robberies before he was shot near ‘The Bean’: police
Tyshon Brownlee, charged in the shooting of Dakotah Earley, “basically terrorized this neighborhood with armed robbery after armed robbery after armed robbery,” a prosecutor said.
A suspect in a Lincoln Park shooting was himself shot four days later near “The Bean” sculpture, then escaped from a hospital and was finally arrested at his home over the weekend, authorities said Tuesday.
Tyshon Brownlee, 19, has been charged with attempted murder and armed robbery. In all, Brownlee is accused of five armed robberies in Lincoln Park, Lake View, Edgewater and Uptown.
In the Lincoln Park attack, Cook County prosecutors said Brownlee shot 23-year-old Dakotah Earley three times — first when a 9 mm handgun Brownlee was holding went off as they struggled and Earley tried to defend himself.
Brownlee then stood over Earley and shot him again, paused and shot him a third time, Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy told Judge Susana Ortiz in court Tuesday. Murphy said Brownlee admitted to the crime in a statement recorded on video.
Earley, 23, had been walking on a sidewalk at Webster and Wayne avenues around 3 a.m. on May 6 when he was confronted by Brownlee, who stepped out from behind a building, pointed a gun and demanded his cellphone, authorities said.
The shooting was witnessed by two residents, who provided police with surveillance footage and waited with Earley until he was taken to a hospital in critical condition with gunshot wounds to the back of his head and back, Murphy said.
“This defendant committed this crime spree and basically terrorized this neighborhood with armed robbery after armed robbery after armed robbery with absolutely no regard for the safety of others,” Murphy said in asking the judge to deny Brownlee bail.
An assistant public defender noted Brownlee’s lack of criminal history and asked the judge to set bail. The teenager lives with his mother, works at a Jewel-Osco store full-time and could be placed on electronic monitoring, the defense attorney argued.
But Judge Ortiz agreed with the prosecutor’s request, saying she found Brownlee to be a “clear and present danger” to the community.
Earley remains hospitalized at Illinois Masonic Medical Center. He was shot in the jaw and will eventually need a voice box to communicate, according to Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd), who added that Earley’s mother was on a plane to Chicago from Atlanta Tuesday.
Video key to arrest
The day after the attack, detectives began going through video and were able to identify Brownlee as a suspect, Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan said at a news conference announcing the charges.
Then on May 10, Brownlee was wounded not far from “The Bean” sculpture in Millennium Park, police said. The Chicago Sun-Times reported previously that the victim in that shooting was in the backseat of a car in the first block of North Michigan Avenue when he was struck in the shoulder by gunfire. Witnesses said a black Toyota Prius was seen speeding away west.
Brownlee was taken to Stroger Hospital, but by the time detectives looking into the Lincoln Park robberies realized he was there, he was already gone, “probably understanding what was happening,” Deenihan said.
Brownlee was arrested Sunday at his home in Oak Park, where a 9 mm handgun was also found, authorities said.
The weapon is awaiting testing at the Illinois State Police crime lab to determine whether it matches three shell cases found at the scene of Earley’s shooting, Murphy said.
Murphy said Brownlee appeared to mainly target cellphones in the five armed attacks he is charged with committing. But he noted that police believe Brownlee is connected to other robberies as well.
The five robberies Brownlee is charged in happened in quick succession, prosecutors said. About 10 p.m. on May 5, Brownlee allegedly pointed a gun at a woman who was walking with her headphones on in Lake View, taking her bag and phone. He then crossed the street and robbed another woman, who didn’t report the incident until after reading a news story about Earley’s shooting, prosecutors said.
A half-hour later, Brownlee allegedly robbed a man of his wallet and cellphone and threatened to “pop” the victim if the code provided for the stolen phone didn’t work. The fourth robbery happened early the following morning when Brownlee took a DePaul University student’s cellphone and wallet near the school’s Lincoln Park campus, prosecutors said.
Five minutes later, Brownlee robbed and shot Earley, prosecutors said.
‘Extensive pattern of armed robberies’
Ald. Hopkins said he has been told by police that Brownlee was part of a robbery crew “responsible for an extensive pattern of armed robberies over the previous two weeks, across Lincoln Park, Lake View, Edgewater and Uptown.”
“In those attacks, offenders wearing ski masks were driving stolen cars around residential neighborhoods in the overnight hours, looking for unsuspecting people walking alone or in small groups,” Hopkins said. “They would then jump suddenly from the vehicle with guns drawn to rob their terrified victims of phones, purses, and wallets.”
Deenihan noted that robbery crews in Chicago often “become more violent as they go along,” though he couldn’t say exactly why Earley was shot when the other victims were not.
“For this specific case, you could almost hear on the video, he takes the victim’s phone, then he starts asking for the passcode,” Deenihan said.
“And so I can’t tell you specifically is that the reason. You know, obviously, the victim in this case, you know, fought back. ... You guys can see on the video, his initial instincts are to fight back and then immediately it leads to the shooting.”
At the news conference, Police Supt. David Brown stressed the importance of private security cameras, noting that footage of the shooting helped lead to the arrest.
“They help us solve crimes faster,” Brown said. “But more importantly, they help us bring violent offenders off our streets to justice.
“We will not tolerate violence in this city,” the superintendent added. “Too many precious lives are being hurt or taken away because of a sheer disregard for human life, and that is unacceptable.”
Brownlee’s next hearing was set for May 25 in Skokie.
Contributing: Mitch Dudek