LINCOLN SQUARE — A man charged with attempted murder in the shooting of a FedEx worker in North Center this week had aggressively chased the driver shortly after the victim drove around him on the street, prosecutors said in court Thursday.
Authorities have not offered a motive in Tuesday’s shooting, which led to a police chase, a car crash in Lincoln Square’s bustling Giddings Plaza and a suspect trying to flee through Garcia’s Restaurant, a favorite of local police officers. Officers eating lunch there gave chase and arrested the man.
But a description of the events leading up to the shooting suggested road rage may have played a role, as prosecutors outlined how the arrested man had quickly slowed down in a Porsche SUV, forcing a driver to go around him, only to follow him at a high rate of speed and catch up at a stoplight. At the stoplight, the victim saw a passenger in the Porsche holding a gun and firing shots, including one that hit the driver in the arm. Three shots hit the side of the man’s vehicle, prosecutors said.
The wounded driver has already been released from a hospital. He told authorities he did not recognize the shooter and had no previous interactions with him or the driver.
Multiple authorities initially said the victim was a female FedEx worker. But police and prosecutors say the driver was a man. He was driving an Acura and wearing a FedEx shirt.
The suspect in court Thursday, Alexandru Mihai, 19, is accused of being the driver of the Porsche SUV in the incident. The shooter got away and is still on the loose.
Mihai was ordered held without bond. He’s charged with attempted murder, possession of a stolen vehicle and possession of a controlled substance, police said. Police said they found two 9mm guns, cocaine, oxycodone and ecstasy in the stolen Porsche SUV Mihai was allegedly driving.
The Porsche had been stolen from a driveway in west suburban Aurora Aug. 13, prosecutors said.
It played out at 1:50 p.m. Tuesday when the victim was driving east in the left lane of Irving Park Road and stopped at a red light near California Avenue. While stopped at the light, he noticed a Porsche SUV in the right lane in front of him, prosecutors said.
Mihai was driving the Porsche SUV and an another man was sitting sitting next to him in the passenger seat, prosecutors alleged. When the light turned green, the victim and Mihai kept driving east on Irving Park. As they approached Rockwell Street, Mihai reportedly changed lanes and got directly in front of the victim.
“[Mihai] then suddenly dropped speed so that the victim decided to change lanes to get around the defendant,” prosecutors allege.
After passing the Porsche SUV, the delivery driver got back into the left lane and continued east on Irving Park before stopping at a red light in the left turn lane on Western Avenue. When the light changed the victim continued north and saw in his rearview mirror that Mihai was driving slowly behind him on Western Avenue’s left lane, prosecutors allege.
Next, Mihai reportedly raced at a high rate of speed towards the other driver, which caused him to move into Western’s right northbound lane to prevent Mihai from rear ending him.
“Just before [the victim] reached the intersection of Berteau Avenue, the victim heard a loud bang and instantly felt pain,” prosecutors alleged. “The victim looked to his left and saw the Porsche in the left lane immediately next to him and observed the front seat passenger pointing a gun in his direction.”
The victim slammed on the brakes and heard three more gunshots before Mihai continued north on Western Avenue at “a high rate of speed” before making a left turn to continue speeding down Hutchinson Street, prosecutors alleged.
As Mihai and the shooter fled, the victim made a u-turn, pulled over and began calling out for help, prosecutors said.
A woman saw Mihai race down Hutchinson Street, slamming the SUV against the residential street’s speed bumps, and then went over to help the victim, prosecutors said.
She then flagged down police and gave them a description of the Porsche SUV with dealer license plates, prosecutors allege.
About 10 minutes later, officers driving east on Wilson Avenue near Ravenswood spotted the SUV and tried to pull the driver over. Mihai didn’t stop, leading to a “brief pursuit” before Mihai crashed into a building on the northeast side of Lincoln Square’s Giddings Plaza, prosecutors alleged.
Mihai and the alleged shooter ran off, with the shooter running down an alley and Mihai into Garcia’s Restaurant, 4760 N. Lincoln Ave., prosecutors said.
When officers searched Mihai after his arrest, they found a bottle of codeine and three key fobs for unknown vehicles, prosecutors said.
Photos and videos taken by people in Giddings Plaza and surveillance video from street cameras and businesses were used to identify Mihai as the driver of the SUV, prosecutors allege.
Mihai has no adult criminal record but a juvenile aggravated unlawful use of a weapon charge that prevents him from legally owning a firearm, prosecutors said. He just got off probation Aug. 1 in that case. During Thursday’s virtual bond hearing, prosecutors asked a judge to hold him without bond, arguing he is a danger to the community.
Mike Krejci, Mihai’s attorney, argued against it.
“My client is 19 and a lifelong resident Chicago who resides with his mother in the North Side. As [the prosecution] indicated he does not have an adult [criminal] background,” Krejci said. “He’s not the shooter in this case and I think it’s hard to prove specific intent to kill … when he’s not the shooter and the other person allegedly in the front seat was firing the weapon.”
Judge Mary Maurubio disagreed, saying Mihai was in control of the SUV when it was recklessly driving through streets before crashing in Lincoln Square.
It was a “miracle” no one besides the shooting victim was hurt during an afternoon shooting and high speed car chase in and around Revere Park, Horner Park, Welles Park as well as North Center, Ravenswood and Lincoln Square’s busy commercial corridors, the judge said.
“We are not yet started in the school year. So this is the time of day that kids and families and all sorts of people are out and about,” Maurubio said. “…It’s the nature of all the factors before me that are leading to my conclusion that he poses a danger.”
Maurubio ordered Mihai held without bond. His next court date is Sept. 1.
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