Murder charges filed in summertime shooting on Wabash Bridge

Charles James (inset) and a frame from CPD surveillance video of the shooting. | CPD

A Chicago man is charged with murder and attempted murder for allegedly shooting at a carload of people on the Wabash Bridge this summer — less than three months after he was paroled for being a felon in possession of a firearm. And prosecutors say the man who died was not the intended target. The shooting was captured by CPD surveillance cameras.

Prosecutors charged Charles James, 31, with one count of first-degree murder and four counts of attempt first-degree murder for the July 19 shooting that killed 35-year-old Gregory P. Crawford and left a 25-year-old woman injured. A second man who also fired shots remains at-large, prosecutors said.

“He is undoubtedly a real and present threat to the city of Chicago,” Cook County Judge Charles Beach said after hearing about the case during a bond court hearing Sunday.

James and the unknown shooter were part of a group that was wandering around near Trump Tower when the unidentified gunman had some type of confrontation with a 27-year-old man around 2:35 a.m., according to the state. Video shows the third man hiding behind cars on Wabash in an attempt to get away from the group, prosecutors said.

Passengers in a passing car saw the man hiding and stopped to ask if he was okay. The man allegedly told them that James and others in the group were going to shoot him.

When one of the passengers opened their door to let the man inside, the unknown gunman began shooting at the car. Video shows James then pulled out his own gun and fired at the vehicle, prosecutors said.

Bullets pierced the vehicle’s windshield, striking Crawford in the neck and hitting the woman twice in her left arm, according to prosecutors. The car’s driver sped from the scene, and the man who was allegedly targeted by the shooters fled on foot without injuries. James and the other gunman allegedly got into a car and left the area.

In addition to the two shooting victims, another passenger in the car was treated and released for unspecified injuries.

Investigators found five shell casings at the scene. Detectives released surveillance video of the shooting to the public a few days later. Prosecutors said James has distinctive tattoos that helped police identify him in the shooting video.

The video clearly shows multiple police vehicles with blue lights activated on Wacker Drive as officers tended to a large crowd of people who gathered along the Riverwalk area for several hours before the shooting unfolded.

People are seen diving to the bridge deck, ducking, and running from the scene. After the shooting stops, both gunmen run north on the bridge, away from the police squad cars that sit on the other side of the Chicago River.

According to Illinois Department of Corrections records, James was released early from prison on April 28 after serving half of a three-year sentence he received for being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was also convicted of being a felon in possession of a weapon in 2013 and received a sentence of boot camp. He has two felony narcotics convictions that did not result in prison time.

Before ordering James held without bail, Judge Beach reiterated James’ background and parole status.

“That in and of itself leads me to believe that he is a real and present threat to the community,” Beach said. “I don’t even need to get to the fact that he had a 2013 gun-related case.”

James is also being held without bail while IDOC considers revocation of his parole.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com