‘John killed himself?’ Hours after police standoff, man gets voicemail about brother he hadn’t seen in 15 years

“It was shocking,” said Glen Lichard. “I just wish the SWAT would have called me. I would have gotten on the phone with him or gone down there, or something.”

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A man holds what appears to be a gun on Friday while standing on a makeshift platform atop of a Humboldt Park building in the 4100 block of West Chicago Avenue during a standoff with police.

John Litsiardakis holds what appears to be a gun Friday during a standoff with a SWAT team in the 4100 block of West Chicago Avenue in the Humboldt Park neighborhood.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Glen Lichard woke up Saturday morning to a shocking voicemail about a brother he hadn’t seen in nearly 15 years.

“I woke up my wife and I said, ‘Did she just say John killed himself?’” Lichard told the Sun-Times. “I had to replay the message.”

He didn’t know what nearly everyone in Chicago had seen Friday, when his brother John waved what appeared to be guns from the roof of a building in Humboldt Park, shouting racist threats, yelling obscenities at police and flying an American flag upside down.

After a standoff that lasted into early Saturday, his brother was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to Chicago police.

“It was shocking,” he said. “I just wish the SWAT would have called me. I would have gotten on the phone with him or gone down there, or something … I don’t know if I could have helped him because I know he was in dire straits. He’d rather die than be a burden on anybody and I think that’s what he did.”

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Family photo of John Litsiardakis.

Provided

His family had lost touch with him and didn’t know he had recently changed his last name from Lichard to Litsiardakis. Neighbors in the 4100 block of West Chicago Avenue where the standoff took place said he had been acting erratically for more than a year and recently placed an illuminated swastika on a makeshift tower of scaffolding on the roof.

“He was level-headed. I don’t know what happened,” Lichard said. “Maybe it was his way to scream out.”

Litsiardakis was raised in Humboldt Park and served in the Army during the Vietnam War, his family said. He ran an auto shop for decades in the building on West Chicago. He was 67 when he died.

Lichard and his daughter, Melody Lichard, described the man they knew as protective and funny, but they began to notice a recent shift on social media. Litsiardakis seemed to be battling paranoia about things like family and the government, but they had never seen anything anti-Semitic or racist in his speech or actions.

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John Litsiardakis holds his niece Melody Lichard.

Provided

The family believes Litsiardakis’s life took a turn for the worse after various financial woes and two marriages that ended in divorce, Melody Lichard said.

Like her dad, Melody said she also lost touch with Litsiardakis years ago when the matriarch of the family died. But she rekindled contact when he added her as a friend on Facebook roughly five years ago.

In 2019, their messages were “normal.” But through the last few months, he sent messages warning her to “watch out” for her parents.

“The past three months, I couldn’t even understand what he was saying,” she said.

Counterterrorism Chief Larry Snelling told reporters Monday that none of the officers on the scene opened fire during the standoff. They recovered “multiple weapons” from inside the building. He couldn’t provide a firm number, saying officials were still investigating.

“The location was very chaotic. There were a lot of things in there,” Snelling said. “The building more than likely has to be demolished.”

The Sun-Times previously reported that Litsiardakis had been the subject of more than 40 calls for service since January 2022, according to a law enforcement source. Snelling said officials are now looking into those calls and acknowledged “there was a history there.”

“However, when we arrived on the scene, when we knew that he was actively on the roof armed with a weapon, our SWAT team went out there immediately,” he said. “We did everything that we could to deescalate that situation.

“The officers did a magnificent job of engaging this individual until he stopped engaging with us,” Snelling said. “But the focus at that time was to make sure that the community was safe. And our officers also had to be safe.”

Snelling said the scaffolding on the roof led police officials to assume Litsiardakis “had set something up inside,” delaying efforts to breach the building.

Litsiardakis initially took ownership of the fortlike property in 1986, according to the Cook County clerk’s office. In 2004, the clerk’s office transferred the property to a firm headquartered downtown as part of a “public sale of real estate for the nonpayment of taxes.”

Litsiardakis filed a petition seeking to block the property transfer. It’s unclear how the issue was resolved, and the manager of the firm that took possession of the building couldn’t recall what happened.

The city of Chicago later targeted both Litsiardakis and the property for unpaid water bills, slapping liens on the building and taking Litsiardakis to court. He was also targeted by creditors in two lawsuits seeking more than $20,000, according to public records and Cook County court filings.

The property was most recently transferred in 2014 from a Freeport-based firm that purchased the building in a similar public sale and sold it to Midwest Property Ventures LLC for $10 “and other good and valuable consideration.”

Joseph Scoleri, the manager of Midwest Property Ventures, said he gave the property to Litsiardakis through a quitclaim deed roughly three weeks ago. Scoleri suggested the deal wasn’t finalized because city workers hadn’t read the water meter.

“I don’t know if that ever got recorded,” he said of the property transaction. “But the taxes were also sold awhile ago. ... I don’t know if it ever got finalized where he took possession of it. I never got any documentation on that.”

Litsiardakis was arrested at least five times in the 1980s and was twice hit with felony gun and drug charges, according to court records, which indicate he had a prior felony conviction. In those two cases, he was convicted only of a single drug charge.

He changed his last name from Lichard in 2021, legally taking on a moniker that he used in social media accounts in which he apparently posted alarming and conspiratorial ramblings.

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