Investigative reports made public Tuesday about two Chicago police officers fatally hit by a train in December show that the owner of a handgun connected to the deadly incident lost not only that gun but another one several years earlier.
The details were included in detective reports into the deaths of Officers Conrad Gary and Eduardo Marmolejo while investigating reports of shots fired in the Roseland community on the Far South Side.
According to the reports released to the Tribune as part of a public records request, Edward R. Brown told police he was on his way home from work on Dec. 18 when he found a Keltec .380-caliber pistol in a black fanny pack in an alley at 101st Street and Vernon Avenue. He went to the nearby Metra station, ascended to the tracks and fired the handgun into the air and toward a local school.
“I was just trying it out,” Brown, 24, told detectives, according to the reports.
Gary and Marmolejo were sent to the area to investigate and were struck and killed by a Metra train.
Brown faces felony charges of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and reckless discharge of a firearm.
The police reports revealed that in a strikingly similar incident, the owner of the Keltec pistol found by Brown had lost a separate gun in 2015 . The man told detectives he left a black fanny pack with a Beretta Tomcat .32-caliber semi-automatic pistol on the floor of a Chicago Park District bathroom, according to the reports.
That weapon has never been recovered, police said.
The owner of the Keltec, who is not identified in the report, has not been charged. At the time of the incident, he had a firearms owners gun permit, commonly referred to as a FOID card, issued by Illinois State Police.
On Tuesday, Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi couldn’t provide specifics on the gun owner.
One firearms expert called the case tragic, saying it underscores the fact that gun ownership is an “incredible” responsibility.
“A gun represents the power of life and death,” said Mark Jones, a former agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “It’s not something like losing your house keys or a driver’s license.”
Jones recommends that legal gun owners carry their weapons on their body and not in a bag because of how easy it is to put it down or have it stolen.
A law passed in Illinois last year allows family members and law enforcement to petition a judge to order that a person’s FOID card be revoked if he presents a threat to himself or others.
Losing two guns might be such a concern to a family, Jones said.
“If you are worried about your loved ones, search your hearts,” he said.
Responding to the scene about 6:20 p.m. on Dec. 18 Conrad and Marmalejo scrambled up the embankment to pursue Brown, who had fled along the Metra tracks when he saw a vehicle approaching and realized police were likely looking for him, he told detectives.
When the officers got up to the tracks, they stayed on the tracks used by southbound trains because they saw a northbound train approaching. But they were unaware they were in the path of another train.
Once the trains passed, the engineer saw a silhouette and heard a thumping and immediately hit his emergency breaks, the report said.
Meanwhile, other officers arrested Brown and took him to a police station, unaware that Marmolejo and Gary had been fatally struck. After finding the Keltec pistol, Brown told detectives that he discarded the fanny pack on the roof of a garage near his residence. Detectives located the bag on the roof and found the Keltec owner’s FOID inside.
During an interview with detectives, the owner said he put the fanny pack down earlier that day in the alley while taking out the garbage.
“(The owner) related that he lost the fanny pack with his pistol in it. …That on his way to the eye doctor he went to take garbage out and probably set the fanny pack down,” the report said.