Ex-Chicago cop’s son accused in Dolton triple shooting freed on bail over prosecutor’s protest
Defense lawyer asked for lenient bail, noting Steven Bradley Jr., who has 2 prior gun convictions, wasn’t IDed as the shooter and that his father is a retired detective.
After being charged with shooting three people in Dolton, a retired Chicago police detective’s son was allowed to go home, free on bail.
Charged with attempted murder in the July 6 triple shooting, 26-year-old Steven Bradley Jr. of Chicago was released last weekend pending trial after his fiancée put up a 10 percent bond on his $250,000 bail.
Government and law enforcement officials, who grappled with a string of high-profile shootings last summer in the south suburb of 23,000, were stunned when they found out Bradley wasn’t kept in jail without bail given the level of violence involved.
“I think in all cases of murder and attempted murder, bond should be denied,” said Andrew Holmes, a Dolton village trustee and anti-violence activist whose daughter was killed in 2015 in Indianapolis.
“Here, you have three people who were shot,” Holmes said. “How much more violence do you need?”
Bail reforms enacted in 2017 in Cook County have come under fire for encouraging judges to release defendants on bail when possible.
Chief Cook County Judge Timothy Evans released a study last year saying there was no evidence violent crime has gone up because of people facing gun charges getting released on bail. But academics have questioned the study’s methodology.
“I have seen time and time again people on bond committing other violent crimes,” said Holmes, who visits families of murder victims to help them prepare for grieving and to deal with the justice system.
Bradley’s case shows the competing demands judges face — from prosecutors who want to keep defendants locked up and from defense attorneys who want them to set lenient bail terms. Such dramas play out every day at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse at 26th and California.
According to a transcript of Bradley’s March 8 bail hearing, the judge didn’t think the evidence against Bradley was ironclad.
The prosecutor, Gino Betts, told Cook County Circuit Judge Arthur Wesley Willis that Bradley was in a car that pulled up to another vehicle at 14912 S. Michigan Ave. the evening of July 6. Bradley fired 15 to 20 shots into the other car, striking the driver in the head, one passenger in the neck, shoulder and back and another passenger in a leg, Betts told the judge.
Bradley was caught on a surveillance video at a gas station six minutes after the shooting, after getting out of the passenger’s side of the car used in the shooting, Betts said.
Police obtained a search warrant for Bradley’s car and found gunshot residue on the driver’s door, steering wheel and glove compartment, along with a .40-caliber bullet casing — the type of ammunition used in the shooting, Betts said.
The judge asked whether police conducted a photo lineup for the victims to identify Bradley, and the prosecutor said no.
According to the transcript, Bradley’s attorney Matthew Kaplan said the only identification of Bradley was the video of him at the gas station, where he bought candy.
“He was not identified by any of the victims whatsoever,” said Kaplan, also noting that the car didn’t belong to Bradley.
Kaplan told the judge that Bradley’s father is a retired Chicago police detective who worked on an FBI task force.
Dolton police obtained a warrant in late July for Bradley’s arrest. But Bradley didn’t know about the warrant until earlier this month, according to Kaplan.
Bradley spoke with a member of an FBI task force when he learned of the warrant and surrendered to the Dolton police, Kaplan said.
Bradley has worked as a contractor for his grandfather’s company for 10 years, and he and his fiancee have three children ages 4, 7, and 9, Kaplan said.
Kaplan acknowledged his client has felony convictions for possession of a defaced firearm and illegal possession of a firearm by a felon. Bradley was sentenced to prison for both crimes, court records show.
A court official told the judge an analysis of Bradley’s background put his risk of new criminal activity at 3 out of 6 and his risk of not returning to court for his hearings at 2 out of 6 — with 6 being the biggest risk.
An expert on such court recommendations told the Chicago Sun-Times the report on Bradley appeared to follow the proper guidelines.
Kaplan told the judge his client wasn’t a flight risk and asked him to set bail at $150,000.
The prosecutor said Bradley should be held without bail because of the severity of the crime.
“Judge, it’s our position that this is a mandatory no-bail situation given that it’s a shooting,” Betts said.
The judge found probable cause to charge Bradley but said he didn’t see enough evidence to withhold bail.
“There had been no actual identification that he is the actual shooter,” Willis said.
The judge refused to set the bail Kaplan requested, instead raising the amount to $250,000. He ordered Bradley to be confined at home and placed on electronic monitoring while free on bail and ordered Bradley not to have any contact with the victims.
Court records show Bradley’s fiancee — who records show has declared bankruptcy five times since 2013 — posted the required 10% of the bail need for him to be released.
Prosecutors don’t appear to have asked for a hearing to question the legitimacy of the source of the bail.
Records also show that one of the people Bradley is accused of shooting was in trouble with the law for gun possession. The man was arrested in Chicago and charged with illegal gun possession a month earlier and was released on a $1,500 bond. The month after he was shot, the man was arrested again on a gun-possession charge in Dolton. His bail was set at $100,000, and he was freed after he posted the required 10% of that.
“That’s the pattern,” Holmes said of people who repeatedly get caught with illegal guns but still get released from jail while awaiting trial. “We need consequences.”
Dolton has been struggling with gun violence, with seven people shot to death there last year.
The killings of three women last year spurred particular public outrage. The victims included a 40-year-old woman who was driving with her four children in August when a teenager fired at rivals and instead hit her, according to police. Also in August, a 16-year-old Simeon Career Academy cheerleader was killed by stray gunfire outside a convenience store. In September, a 31-year-old woman was shot to death in an argument at a club.
Cook County prosecutors have filed charges against those suspected of killing the two older women.
Contributing: David Struett, Andy Grimm