River North hotel desk clerk stabbed tourist during dispute over room reservation, prosecutors say

Joel Brown | CPD

A River North hotel desk clerk stabbed a visiting New York City firefighter during a dispute over a room reservation, prosecutors said. But the accused man’s attorney claimed he stabbed the firefighter — six times, allegedly — in self defense.

Prosecutors said the 29-year-old firefighter and two companions tried to check into the FOUND hotel, 613 North Wells, on Thursday evening, but desk clerk Joel Brown could not find their reservation.

The situation over the missing reservation escalated and Brown eventually came around the desk and challenged the fireman to fight, prosecutors said. Instead, the fireman asked to have a conversation with Brown and the men stepped into a kitchen area that is adjacent to the front desk, according to prosecutors.

The fireman reportedly told Brown, age 27, that he owed his fiancee an apology for the way he spoke to her at the front desk. Instead, Brown punched the fireman in the face and a full-blown fistfight broke out, prosecutors said.

The two men tumbled out of the kitchen and into the lobby where the fireman tackled Brown and they continued fighting, according to the allegations. When the fireman let Brown go, Brown shoved the group’s luggage and other things toward the fireman and his group. The fireman threw things back.

Video of a portion of the confrontation was aired on CBS2.

As the fireman and his companions were leaving, Brown appeared with a knife and stabbed the fireman in the side of his chest, prosecutors said. The fireman fell to the ground and Brown stabbed him three more times in the abdomen and twice in the groin area, according to prosecutors.

After the stabbing, Brown went reportedly back into the hotel, sat down behind the front desk, and called 911 to report that he had stabbed the man.

The fireman was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital where his wounds were packed with gauze because they are too deep to stitch, prosecutors said.

But private defense attorney Matthew Kaplan presented a much different version of events during Brown’s bond court hearing Saturday.

According to Kaplan, the fireman went behind the front desk, dragged Brown into the kitchen area, and then threw the first punch that started the fight. He said Brown was being attacked on the floor of the front desk area when he pulled a knife from a desk drawer and stabbed the fireman to end the assault.

Brown, who has worked at the hotel for six months, is a student at Columbia College, Kaplan said.

Brown is charged with attempted first-degree murder.

Judge Charles Beach noted that Brown called 911 and stayed on the scene until police arrived before setting bail at $75,000.

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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