Terrorism, attempted murder charges filed against man who allegedly detonated bomb on Pink Line in May

A grand jury has greatly increased the criminal charges facing a Chicago man who allegedly detonated a homemade bomb on an occupied Pink Line train this spring. Prosecutors initially charged Erik Tolayo-Flores with possessing an explosive device and aggravated arson after he allegedly detonated a homemade explosive on a Pink Line train near Kedzie on June 5.

Now, a grand jury has returned a 35-count felony true bill against him, including multiple Class X charges of terrorism and attempted murder, according to court records.

Erik T Flores (April 2022) | CPD

Flores allegedly boarded a westbound Pink Line train around 8:30 p.m. while carrying a beer and rolling his scooter, Assistant State’s Attorney Sean Kelly said in June. After parking his scooter, Flores repeatedly warned other passengers that they had until the Cicero station to exit the train, or he would blow it up, according to Kelly.

When a passenger approached Flores and tried to calm him down, Flores took out a lighter and detonated an explosive device he was holding in his right hand, Kelly continued. The explosion was so powerful that it punctured several holes in the ceiling of the train car. Flores’ hand was horribly injured by the blast, which was captured on CTA surveillance videos.

Police also found a second device. Kelly said it was an eight-inch-long, one-inch-wide tube with no signs of where it was made.

Kelly said Flores told police that he knew people were on the train when he lit a “firework” with a lighter.

Flores was free on a $250 bail bond at the time of the incident for a felony cannabis charge. In that case, police said they found 182 grams of cannabis in Flores’ car during a traffic stop on April 11. He is the 28th person accused of killing or trying to kill someone in Chicago this year while on felony bail.

In 2019, Flores received a two-year sentence for concealing a death or moving a body. In July 2018, Flores wrapped his dead friend’s body with garbage bags and placed it in a garage until it was discovered after spending two weeks in the summertime heat.

Red Line hoax

James Clark, 58, of Edgewater, pleaded guilty Monday to a charge of giving a false bomb alarm in exchange for a two-year probation sentence, according to court records.

James Clark | CPD

Prosecutors said Clark made a fake pipe bomb out of a cardboard tube and plastic caps and placed it near the Bryn Mawr Red Line station in May 2021, resulting in a massive police response and disruptions to CTA train and bus service.

Police found a video that showed a man carrying a distinctive backpack and leaving the device at the bus stop around 1:48 a.m. on May 8, 2021. Investigators later found surveillance camera footage of a man carrying a similar backpack in the 5600 block of North Winthrop, and detectives created a “seeking to identify” bulletin.

Investigators fanned out across the area with images of a suspect and hit paydirt when someone recognized the man as their neighbor, Assistant State’s Attorney Meredith Rudolfi said at the time.

Clark was initially charged with a more serious charge of making a false terrorist threat, but prosecutors agreed to a lesser charge during plea negotiations. Clark was sentenced by Judge Lauren Gottainer, who presided over the case.

She ordered him to undergo drug and alcohol treatment and pay $3,549 in court costs, according to clerk records.

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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