Cops: Man spat in faces of Blue Line, Metra passengers

Willie Howard and CTA surveillance images of the suspect. | CPD

A Chicago man who allegedly spat in the faces of passengers aboard CTA and Metra trains has been ordered held on $200,000 bail.

On October 6, a woman told police that a man walked up to her and spat in her face as she rode the Blue Line on the North Side around 10 a.m. The man then moved to the next car through the emergency exit, she said. When the victim pressed the emergency button and began speaking with the train operator, the offender fled from the train, prosecutors said.

About 40 minutes later, another woman reported that a man spat in her eye as she rode the Blue Line. That victim was transported by ambulance to a hospital for treatment. The two women do not know each other, prosecutors said.

Chicago police distributed a bulletin to other law enforcement agencies and released a public community alert that included images of the suspect on October 12. Metra police officers who handled similar incidents on their train system identified the suspect as Willie Howard Jr., age 35, according to prosecutors.

Both victims identified Howard in photo line-ups and cops arrested him outside a Metra station Friday.

During a bond court hearing over the weekend, prosecutors suggested Howard may have a communicable illness, but they did not elaborate.

Howard, who was convicted of criminal sexual assault in 2005, is now charged with two felony counts of aggravated battery to transit passengers. Judge John Lyke ordered him to go onto electronic monitoring if he can post a $25,000 deposit bond.

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Tim Hecke is CWBChicago's managing partner. He started his career at KMOX, the legendary news radio station in St. Louis. From there, he moved on to work at stations in Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York City. Tim went on to build syndicated radio news and content services that served every one of America's 100 largest radio markets. He became CWBChicago's managing partner in 2019. He can be reached at