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Driver Of Car Where Toddler Shot Was In Road Rage Incident Did Not Fire At Other Car, Prosecutors Say, As Search For Shooter Continues

Police and Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the drivers of the two cars were shooting at each other, but a Cook County prosecutor contradicted that, saying the person who shot 21-month-old Kayden Swann was the aggressor.

Kayden Swann is in intensive care after Tuesday's shooting on Lake Shore Drive.
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DOWNTOWN — A Cook County judge on Thursday set a $5,000 bond for the man driving the car where a 21-month-old boy was shot in the head in a Lake Shore Drive road rage incident, but prosecutors say they do not believe he fired any gunshots during the confrontation — contradicting what police and city officials initially said.

Jushawn Brown, 43, faced a felony gun charge after being arrested Tuesday, shortly after Kayden Swann was shot during a road rage incident between two vehicles. Kayden remains in critical condition at Lurie Children’s Hospital, but is showing signs of improvement.

Police said the confrontation started as far south at 35th Street and Lake Shore Drive before ending near Grant Park with a baby in critical condition.

Cook County prosecutor Andrea Williams said Brown was driving with his girlfriend, Swann’s grandmother, in the front seat and the boy in his carseat when an SUV merging into his lane almost struck his car. Williams described Brown in court as Kayden’s grandfather but later clarified he is not biologically related to the toddler.

Brown pulled over and yelled at the driver of the SUV, Williams said. She said Brown and the unknown man exchanged words and then the other man produced a firearm and asked Brown “what he wanted to do about it while dangling the firearm at the defendant.”

Brown then picked up and placed his 9mm handgun on his lap and continued driving north on Lake Shore Drive in an attempt to get away from the SUV. The SUV driver continued to follow Brown’s family and began shooting at their vehicle, a white Lincoln sedan, Williams said.

One of the bullets shattered the rear window and struck the child in the head, Williams said.

Police and Mayor Lori Lightfoot said it appeared Brown and the other man had been shooting at each other over several blocks. Police said Tuesday they recovered multiple shell casings between the 900 and 1100 blocks of South Lake Shore Drive near Grant Park.

But Williams said in court police concluded all the shell casings were from the same weapon, which was not Brown’s. An updated statement from the police department Thursday omitted any mention of Brown firing shots.

After the shooting, Brown crashed into another vehicle near East Jackson Drive and Lake Shore Drive before a good Samaritan drove them to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Kayden was transferred to Lurie with a severe brain injury, requiring “full critical care support.” Doctors placed him in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator.

Once at the hospital, police spoke to Brown’s girlfriend and were told that he had a firearm.

“Police then asked him if he had anything on him that he was not supposed to have and the defendant indicated that he had his protection on him,” Williams said.

After a pat down, police recovered the gun, which was loaded. Brown does not have a valid FOID card or a conceal carry license, Williams said. Brown has two misdemeanor convictions, one from 2008 and the other from 2012.

During the bond hearing, Brown appeared emotional, prompting Judge Charles Beach to ask if he needed a moment. 

Cook County Public Defender Melissa Delgado told Beach that Brown, who works as a machine operator at Blommer Chocolate Company, has been fully cooperative with authorities and has no felony background.

“As far as I can see, you’re a man that’s responsible. You’re taking care of your job and your family and you’ve stayed out of trouble of any significance for a long time,” Beach said.  

Beach also said Brown did not fire his weapon during the traffic altercation and said the other driver was the aggressor.

“There doesn’t seem to be any evidence whatsoever that Mr. Brown brandished his weapon at the other individual or incited any acts by the other individual,” Beach said. “In fact, he referred to his weapon as ‘his protection’… which means the other individual did not know you were armed and [the other man shooting] was not a response to your actions — they were acting aggressively on their own accord.”

Brown must post $500 to bond out of jail. His next court date is scheduled for April 14.

Police have not released any description of the gunman’s vehicle, aside from it being an SUV, and said the incident remained under investigation Thursday night.

On Friday, Dr. Marcelo Malakooti, the associate chief medical officer and medical director of the pediatric intensive care unit at Lurie, said Kayden is showing signs of improvement.

“Over the past 24 hours, the patient has remained critically ill but has been starting to demonstrate some improvement in brain function. He continues to require a ventilator to support his breathing and ICU therapies to continue to support his brain during this tenuous period,” according to a statement from Malakooti.

“His mother and grandmother remain by his side and are receiving care from our family life and social work teams to help them manage the trauma the family is experiencing. The family has an incredible team behind them, and we support them through this tragic event every step of the way.”

Kayden’s mother started a GoFundMe campaign to help with medical expenses. 

“My son is 1 almost 2 and was shot in the right temple and is fighting for his life in the hospital,” she wrote on the fundraiser, which has a goal of raising $3,000.

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