Chicago police say a Cook County judge shot to death Monday morning outside his South Side home might have been the victim of an attempted robbery, though it didn’t appear any possessions were taken from the judge and a woman companion who was wounded.
Citing preliminary information, police said the woman, 52, encountered the gunman by the garage of the two-story brick home in the 9400 block of South Forest Avenue around 4:50 a.m. Words were exchanged and she was shot once in the leg.
“Upon hearing the commotion and the gunshot, Judge (Raymond) Myles exited his residence,” Melissa Staples, the chief of detectives, said at a news conference at police headquarters. “(He) exchanged words with the offender before he was fatally shot multiple times.”
The woman is expected to survive.
Staples said detectives were pursuing “multiple and promising leads” and reviewing video footage from public and private surveillance cameras in the neighborhood. She said detectives do not know if the judge’s work had anything to do with the shooting.
Myles, 66, an associate judge in Cook County Circuit Court’s Criminal Division, was a longtime jurist who has been involved in several high-profile cases. A year and a half ago, he was beaten by another motorist during a road rage incident.
The chief of detectives could not provide a description of the suspect but said he fled on foot and then possibly in a car nearby. Staples said the FBI has offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
Calling the shooting “another senseless act of violence,” First Deputy Superintendent Kevin Navarro said Superintendent Eddie Johnson has ordered the department to use “every resource to track down the offender and bring them to justice.”
“Everyday civil servants like Judge Myles, and those of us in law enforcement, work tirelessly to hold criminals accountable and make our streets safer,” Navarro told reporters. “You have our word, we won’t let Judge Myles’ life be lost in vain and we will hold his killer accountable.”
A neighbor and friend of the judge said he was awakened by gunfire and screams early Monday morning.
“I heard maybe six shots. The shots woke me up, and the screaming of the woman woke me up. She was screaming, ‘Don’t kill him, don’t kill him!'” said the neighbor, who asked not to be named for his safety.
The neighbor said he called 911 and was told that other people had already called. He then looked out the window and saw the woman’s body near the garage, its door open. When police arrived, he went outside and saw the judge lying on the porch.
“I think he was alive when they carried him to the ambulance,” he said.
The neighbor said he believes the judge and the woman were leaving the home to work out at a health club nearby. They always got up early to work out, he said. “The woman, she had a bottle of water with her.”
The neighbor also thinks that cameras installed by the judge at his home caught the shooting. There had a been push recently to get cameras installed throughout the neighborhood. He remembered joking with Myles about how the cameras might catch neighbors doing something embarrassing.
“We would joke, after the cameras were installed,” he said.
“I knew him well,” the neighbor said. “Great guy, great neighbor. He looked after the neighborhood. Any mischief in the neighborhood, he was investigating. He was always at the block clubs. He never talked about being a judge. He was just Ray.”
The neighbor said he just saw the judge over the weekend. They talked about their yards. “He tended a garden in the back, a vegetable garden,” he said. “It was always greenery. He was developing a green thumb.”
Another neighbor, Clayshia Moore, walked up and down the block barefoot before the sun began to rise. She had lathered her feet and hands with blessed oil while her aunt, Sondra Patterson, poured more of the oil down the street.
Patterson hoped the oil would protect her neighbors. “That God will cover us,” she said. “That he will help protect us.”
Moore was in bed when she heard five to six gunshots just before 5 a.m. She thought the noise could have been coming from the trash cans in the alley. She didn’t know there had been a shooting until she saw officers and paramedics just a few houses from where she lives.
Chicago police did not release details about what led to the shooting, leaving neighbors to speculate.
“That’s kind of odd coming from that house,” said one neighbor who did not want to be identified. “They quiet, they real quiet.”
The same neighbor said residents at a recent block club meeting had discussed installing cameras on the block in response to an uptick in home burglaries.
“Yeah, the area is going down, that’s for sure,” she said.
Most of the homes on the block are owned by their original owners, Patterson said. She has lived in her home since the 1970s. It’s only been in the past five years that she’s noticed crime in her neighborhood.
“We’ve never seen this before,” she said.
Myles joined the court in October 1999 when the Illinois Supreme Court appointed him to fill a vacancy. Circuit judges then appointed him as an associate judge in June 2001, and he has served in the criminal division since March 2009.
The two suspects in the infamous murder of seven people at a Brown’s Chicken in Palatine appeared before Myles shortly after their 2002 arrests. Myles was the judge who ordered William Balfour to be held without bond in the 2008 killings of three relatives of singer Jennifer Hudson.
Just before 9 a.m. Monday, a handful of young men stood outside Myles’s locked courtroom, Room 204, at 26th Street and California Avenue, waiting to attend his scheduled morning call.
A woman emerged.
“Judge Myles?” she asked quietly, then directed the men to a courtroom down the hall.
The death of the judge stunned colleagues — and even one defendant — at the county’s main criminal courthouse where Myles had worked for years.
The defendant was slated to appear before Myles on Monday and began to cry on hearing the news of his death, according to his courtroom staff.
LeRoy K. Martin Jr., presiding judge of the Criminal Division, headquartered at the Leighton Criminal Court building, last saw Myles on Friday when he brought his teenage daughter to spend the day with him at the courthouse.
“Everyone here is devastated,” Martin said. “People know when a judge is fair.”
Martin said it was unclear if Myles’ work as a judge played any factor in his killing.
“You don’t think of it in terms of jobs where people are putting their lives on the line (like) police, fire, first responders,” the judge said. “Nonetheless, when you’re doing criminal cases, you’re sensitive to the fact that judges are being blamed for the sentences. People get angry. I suppose time will tell if this had anything to do with his position.”
Martin said Myles was enthusiastic about his assignment to the “youthful offenders” call, where he heard narcotics cases involving defendants about age 27 and younger.
“He was very patient with people and gave out a lot of tough love,” Martin said. ” …He would try and provide services for people, to work with people, and try to keep people out of the penitentiary.”
The two judges had discussed expanding Myles’s assignment to include young defendants charged with crimes other than drug offenses.
“He was in favor of doing that,” Martin said. “It was just his concern about young people. We’d talk about the youth. If we’re going to succeed as a society, we’ll need to give youth a chance to succeed.”
Before joining the bench, Myles had worked as an assistant state’s attorney and then in private practice as a criminal defense lawyer.
“He was on both sides of criminal cases,” Martin said. “That gave him a certain perspective.”
Longtime courthouse employees said Myles was hardworking and friendly, a devoted father and Cubs fan who wore a flashy team jacket to work during their World Series run last year.
“He was a huge Cubs fan,” Martin said. “We would tease each other because I’m a huge White Sox fan.”
“This is the first time any of us have gone through this,” Martin said. “We’ll just have to pick up and carry on, and he’d want it that way.”
Windelin DeLoach, a criminal defense attorney who practiced before Myles for five years, said the judge was known for insisting that defendants get their high school diploma or GED.
He would make people who didn’t fulfill the conditions of their bail to write hundreds of lines — like students — as punishment instead of revoking their bond. DeLoach said this happened to at least three of her clients.
“He wanted to make sure that every person that came into his courtroom accused of a crime got his education because he believed if you had an education, a GED, you won’t come back to his courtroom,” she said.
“He was a phenomenal human being. I don’t know who is going to replace Judge Myles. He ruled his courtroom with an iron fist but with a great amount of kindness, fairness and justice,” DeLoach said. “This was a man who walked with dignity. This was a man who walked proudly through the courthouse. He walked through the hallways… he had nothing to fear, so this was stunning.”
In 2015, Myles was attacked after getting into a minor traffic collision.
Authorities said Myles was trying to park along East 86th Place when his car was struck by another vehicle. The two drivers got out of their cars, but when the judge pulled out a cellphone and began taking pictures of the damage, the other driver punched him in the face, causing serious injuries, according to court records.
The judge fell to the ground bleeding and the assailant fled, according to a Cook County state’s attorney’s spokeswoman. Myles was taken to Jackson Park Hospital, where he was treated for a fractured nose, facial bruising and a chipped tooth, injuries that later required reconstructive surgery, records show.
Ten months went by before authorities arrested Deandre Hudson, 22, and charged him with aggravated battery causing great bodily harm to someone over the age of 60, according to court records.
Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans released a statement saying he joined “all of the judges today in the Circuit Court of Cook County in expressing our sadness regarding the tragic passing of our colleague and friend.
“Judge Myles joined the bench with a wealth of experience in law and extensive service to the community. I have always known Judge Myles to be focused and determined in the pursuit of justice, and his conduct earned him the confidence and respect of the people who appeared before him.”
(c)2017 the Chicago Tribune
Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.