5 charged in violent robbery on Near North Red Line that seriously injured rider

The victim stabbed two of the assailants and was eventually able to jump from a train car to safety, prosecutors said Sunday. He suffered a fracture to the face and a stab wound to his shoulder.

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Five people have been hit with felonies after a violent robbery last week on the Red Line that seriously injured a rider and left two of the attackers also hurt.

The man, 42, used his own knife to stab the two and was able to jump from a train car to safety, prosecutors said at the suspects’ initial court hearing Sunday.

Five suspects were arrested soon after the attack. Shawn Gullens, 20, of North Center; Latoya Thomas, 22, of the West Loop; Larone Williams, 36, of Austin; and Vernon Holman, 52, of Humboldt Park, were charged with armed robbery and aggravated battery. Martinez Owens, 24, of Humboldt Park, was charged with attempted robbery and aggravated battery. 

The victim was targeted after hopping on a southbound train at Addison Street, Chicago police said. Owens and another person, who hasn’t been identified, approached him and tried to wrestle away his cellphone, according to Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Ashley Behncke.

As the man struggled with them, two accomplices entered the train car and one of them began kicking him as he was on the ground, Behncke said. The man took out a knife and stabbed Owens in the back.

Owens and the others ran off, and the man ran to another car and called 911, Behncke said. He held the car’s door shut but let Holman inside because he didn’t recognize him from the initial attack.

Holman wrestled him to the ground, and the man began swinging his knife in self-defense, prosecutors said. After striking Holman in the neck, the man hopped off the train when it arrived at the North/Clybourn station.

That’s when Williams approached and shattered a glass bottle over his head, according to Behncke, who said the man retreated to a train car as Thomas and Gullens chase him. Thomas struck the man and took his backpack, then Gullens hit him with another glass bottle.

The man was able to open a door, escape to the other side of the tracks and call 911 again, authorities said. He was rushed to Northwestern Memorial in serious condition after suffering multiple injuries, including fractures to his face and a stab wound to his left shoulder.

The five suspects were all arrested at the scene, Behncke said.

Holman, a five-time felon who was convicted in a 1987 murder, was still being treated at Stroger Hospital on Sunday. Judge Barbara Dawkins set his bail at $250,000, though he also faces an outstanding warrant and a bail bond violation in separate assault cases. His bail was set at $1,000 in the latter case.

Williams — who has twice been convicted of felonies, including a 2010 criminal sexual assault — was ordered held on $100,000 bail. He pleaded guilty last Tuesday to a misdemeanor count of retail theft and was also held without bail for violating the terms of his probation.

Gullens, who was previously convicted of a misdemeanor gun charge in Indiana, and Owens, who has a felony drug conviction, both had their bail set at $75,000. They were also hit with bail bond violations and held on $1,000 bail in pending theft cases.

Thomas, who has prior misdemeanor convictions for battery and property damage, was held on $50,000 bail.

All five are expected in court in the new case on Aug. 1.

To address spiking violent crime on buses and trains, city leaders announced new public safety measures in March. In addition to adding more unarmed security guards, Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said more officers were being deployed to target gangs and drug crimes and patrol the rail lines. 

“What we need to do is make sure that, on every platform across our system, you, the commuters, see the visibility of sworn police officers as well as these unarmed security guards,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.

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