CHICAGO — A CTA employee attacked a man for more than an hour Saturday at the LaSalle Blue Line Station, throwing the man down the station’s stairs like “garbage” and hitting his head and kicking the man’s wheelchair, before the man’s death, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Emmett Richardson, 39, has been charged with aggravated battery in a public place and aggravated battery to a transit passenger in the case, police said. His bond was set at $3 million during a court hearing Tuesday.
The victim, a 54-year-old man, died shortly after the attack, but the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office is still determining his cause of death, Assistant State’s Attorney Lorraine Scaduto said at the hearing.
The judge said the attack was of an “extremely violent and outrageous nature” — and said it “shocks the conscience,” even in Cook County Court, where “we hear things … every day of violent nature.”
Richardson told officers the man appeared to have overdosed, and Richardson tried to help him, Scaduto said. But all of the attack was caught on video, and the 54-year-old never tried to “more significantly engage” with Richardson or defend himself, Scaduto said.
“I can’t ignore that at 3:15 this man is on video, alive; at 4:30 a.m., he was pronounced dead,” the judge said at the hearing. “I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out how he died.”
The incident stated about 2:05 a.m. Saturday at the station, 150 W. Congress Parkway, when the 54-year-old man arrived and pushed his wheelchair — which held some of his property — around the platform, Scaduto said.
The man stumbled around the platform and sometimes was on the ground, “appearing to be unstable,” Scaduto said.
By 3:17 a.m., the man appeared to be sleeping with his legs on the ground and his head and torso resting on the seat of the wheelchair, Scaduto said. Richardson, who was working in his CTA vest as a customer service agent during the incident, went on the platform and kicked the man’s wheelchair, causing the man to fall to the floor, Scaduto said.
Richardson kicked the man’s property around the platform, and the man got up and slowly went to an elevator, Scaduto said.
Richardson went up the elevator, then came back down and shoved the man onto an escalator, then followed the man, Scaduto said.
At the station’s mezzanine, Richardson tried to pull the man backwards by the hood of his jacket — but Richardson lost his balance and almost fell, Scaduto said.
Richardson “became even more visibly irate” and “rushed” at the 54-year-old, yanking and pushing the man over the railing at the top of the escalator, Scaduto said.
The man fell on his back, and Richardson again grabbed the man by his hood and, “violently yanking” the hood, dragged the man across the floor, grabbed a cardboard drink carrier and hit the man’s body with it, Scaduto said.
With the man on his back, Richardson dragged him by the hood of his jacket, head-first, to the top of the 11-stair stairwell, Scaduto said. He grabbed the man’s feet and flipped the man over so he fell feet over head down the stairs, Scaduto said.
Richardson can be seen in video standing by the stairs after throwing the man “like so much garbage,” Scaduto said. The man can be seen along the lower three steps of the stairs, she said.
Richardson left the area but returned several times; at two points, he poured full bottles of water on the man, Scaduto said. He also propped the man up against the railing, so the man was sitting, and hit the man’s face and head, she said.
Richardson then continued to pull the man around by his head, causing the man to fall down a second flight of stairs, Scaduto said. The man’s body lay, “completely motionless,” she said.
Richardson again left and returned several times, each time repositioning the man, Scaduto said.
A woman — who is seen in the videos but has not yet been identified — arrived and talked to Richardson, who gestured toward the stairs, Scaduto said. The woman walked over, peered down to where the man was, unmoving, and left, Scaduto said.
Richardson called 911 and told first responders there was an “unresponsive but breathing” man at the bottom of the stairs, Scaduto said.
The man was taken by Fire Department officials to a hospital, and he was pronounced dead at 4:38 a.m. Saturday, Scaduto said.
The man was never seen in the video trying to defend himself or “more significantly engage with the defendant,” Scaduto said.
Officers responding to the call spoke to Richardson, who told them he’d been checking the platform when he saw the 54-year-old man in his wheelchair, Scaduto said. Richardson told officers the man had been surrounded by drug paraphernalia, and he said he thought the man had overdosed, Scaduto said.
Officers did not see drug paraphernalia, and none can be seen in the videos, Scaduto said.
Richardson did not tell the officers he’d touched or attacked the man, the prosecutor said.
Richardson told the officers he was helping the man up the stairs when the man lost consciousness and collapsed, “which is completely contrary to what is captured on the video,” Scaduto said.
Another CTA worker confirmed Richardson is the man seen attacking the 54-year-old in the videos, Scaduto said.
The prosecutor said the Medical Examiner’s Office is still determining the 54-year-old man’s cause of death.
Richardon’s lawyer said he holds food drives for people experiencing homelessness and volunteers. He’d been employed by the CTA for about two years, the lawyer said.
But the judge imposed the multimillion-dollar bond, saying Richardson “inflicted a beating” on the 54-year-old for an hour.
“Few things in this building shock the conscience because we hear things in this building every day of violent nature. … But this shocks the conscience,” the judge said. “Throwing a person over a railing, beating them with implements, kicking him without provocation. Grabbing him by the hood. Dragging him. The list goes on and on. I’m not gonna repeat the state’s proffer. And all of this caught on video. Clearly, the evidence is there … .”
The video “didn’t lie,” the judge said.
“I know that he was alive, and then he was dead,” the judge said. Richardson’s “not charged with murder, but I do believe that a substantial monetary bond is necessary and due in this case.”
CTA President Dorval Carter Jr. told the Sun-Times that Richardson “has been removed from service without pay pending further investigation and disciplinary action,” calling the allegations “absolutely reprehensible.”
“I am appalled by this person’s behavior, which not only is completely contrary to CTA policies but also showed a stunning lack of humanity,” Carter said in a statement. “His actions are an insult to the thousands of hardworking and dedicated men and women who serve CTA customers every day.”