A 67-year-old woman is expected to have her left eye removed after an “unprovoked” punch from a south suburban man severely injured her last week aboard a Red Line train, Cook County prosecutors said at a court hearing Sunday.
Judge Stephanie K. Miller denied bail for Derrick L. McMath, 28, who was charged with aggravated battery involving great bodily harm of someone age 60 or older in the attack captured on CTA surveillance video.
The attack came as the woman was reading her Kindle on a train ride home to Evanston from a downtown doctor’s appointment, Assistant State’s Attorney Maurice Alayo said at the hearing at the Leighton Criminal Court Building.
McMath, of south suburban Worth, boarded the northbound train at the Berwyn station and stood in the same car as the woman until the Jarvis stop at 1523 W. Jarvis Avenue in Rogers Park, Alayo said.
When the doors opened at Jarvis, McMath walked to the woman, bent over and punched her in the face before he walked off the train, Alayo said. The punch knocked the woman’s glasses off her face and caused her to start bleeding.
Paramedics took the woman to St. Francis Hospital in Evanston, where she was diagnosed with a severe orbital rupture and fracture and a ruptured orbital nerve, Alayo said. Doctors performed a surgery on one of her eyes, and are expected to perform another to remove her left eye.
The next afternoon, McMath walked into Milwaukee Shoes, a shoe store at 2100 N. Milwaukee Ave., and asked to try on a pair of brown Skechers worth $45, Alayo said. After he put on the shoes, McMatch left his own shoes behind and walked out of the store without paying, according to Alayo.
A store employee, along with responding officers, caught up to McMath and took him into custody, Alayo said. The officers recognized McMath from CTA surveillance that had been released after the attack. He was still wearing the same clothes as the man seen in the video, and the shoes left at the store matched the ones worn by the attacker, Alayo said.
Ald. Joe Moore (49th), whose ward includes the Jarvis station, said the sudden and random nature of the attack on the woman took his breath away.
“She was just sitting on the train. A guy approached her and just clocked her in the face,” Moore said Friday before the arrest was made.
“He didn’t rob her of any of her possessions. He just hit her in the face and moved on. He was acting very angry and aggressive. This is all supposition because they don’t have him yet. But I think he may have been suffering from some mental health issues.”
The arrest came after a series of announcements on social media.
In a tweet earlier Friday asking for the public’s help, Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the “unspeakable attack” on the woman was so brutal, “our victim may lose her eyesight.”
Guglielmi posted photos of the suspect taken by the CTA’s vast network of surveillance cameras and asked for the public’s help in identifying the attacker.
At a time when L ridership is already declining, Moore was asked whether he’s concerned the broad daylight attack would have a chilling impact on ridership.
“Hopefully, this is just an isolated incident and not part of a pattern,” he said.
McMath, who was convicted in 2008 of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, was also charged with a misdemeanor count of retail theft in the incident at the shoe store, police said.
Judge Miller called McMath a danger to the community as she denied him bail. He’s scheduled to appear in court again on Friday.
Contributing: Yvonne Kim, Matthew Hendrickson, Taylor Hartz