Man shot 16-year-old who intervened in ‘play fighting’ on Red Line train, prosecutors say

Chicago — A 16-year-old boy was permanently blinded in one eye after he intervened in “play fighting” on a Red Line train and got shot in the face, prosecutors said as they filed attempted murder charges against the alleged gunman.

Judge Barbara Dawkins held Elijah Russell, 23, without bail during a court hearing Friday at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago. The hearing was live-streamed on YouTube.

Elijah Russell (inset) and a surveillance image of the suspect as seen on a video released by Chicago police. | Chicago Police Department

Russell, the victim, and a group of mutual friends boarded a southbound Red Line train at Cermak-Chinatown around 2:05 a.m. on December 18, prosecutor Anne McCord said.

Once on the train, Russell had a “play fight” with his girlfriend, which became more physical, and Russell started to hit his girlfriend harder, McCord said, prompting the 16-year-old to intervene.

As they fought, the victim pushed Russell against the side of the train and knocked Russell to the ground, according to McCord. The victim eventually got up and helped Russell to his feet.

That’s when Russell pulled out a gun and shot the boy in the face, McCord alleged. CTA surveillance cameras recorded the entire incident.

Chicago police released a portion of the train video to the public and asked for help identifying the gunman. McCord said anonymous tipsters identified Russell the same day and again the day after the video went public. The victim selected Russell in a photo line-up on December 19.

Investigators found a handgun near the train station after the shooting, and investigators determined that the weapon likely fired the bullet that struck the boy, McCord said.

Russell’s defense attorney argued that no evidence links him to the gun or the shell casing police found on the train car. She said he is the primary caregiver for his two children. He is unemployed, receiving social security because he cannot work due to mental health conditions and asthma, the lawyer said, but he does landscaping for neighbors who need it, and he attends church every Sunday.

His next court date is January 13.

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