#55: Prosecutors charge man with shooting 3 women in 2020 while he was on bail for a felony gun charge

Chicago — Prosecutors charged a man on Sunday with shooting three women, killing one, just before Christmas 2020 while he was on bail for a pending felony gun case.

James Armstrong, 26, was eventually convicted of the gun charge and received a one-year sentence, prosecutor Bridget O’Brien said. Now, he is charged with murder and attempted murder for the shooting, more than two years after it occurred.

Armstrong is the 55th person accused of killing or shooting—or trying to kill or shoot—someone in Chicago while awaiting trial for a felony in 2020. The crimes involved at least 70 victims, 36 of whom died.

James Armstrong | Chicago Police Department

According to archived media reports, Armstrong was charged in 2016 with murdering a 16-year-old boy following a traffic accident, but he was never convicted.

On December 20, 2020, a group of women hanging out at a home near the 700 block of South Independence decided to go out for food around 1:35 a.m., O’Brien said.

As they climbed into a car near the home, one of the women saw a red Jeep slow down nearby. She heard a gunshot, looked up from her phone, and saw Armstrong standing on a nearby corner with a gun, O’Brien alleged.

He allegedly fired several more shots into the car, killing a woman in the front passenger seat and injuring two other women. The driver, who was not injured, immediately sped off to Mount Sinai Hospital.

O’Brien said the woman who saw the gunman did not immediately recognize him, but she believed he was a man who had been dating one of the other women. She identified Armstrong in photo line-ups in January 2021 and again last week.

Police searched two Facebook accounts and found photos of a red Jeep and a picture of Armstrong wearing clothing similar to the gunman’s.

Private defense attorney David Gaeger questioned the quality of the investigator’s evidence against Armstrong, noting that clothing items like a fur-lined black coat the gunman and Armstrong allegedly wore are not uncommon.

Judge Charles Beach held Armstrong without bail at the state’s request. Armstrong is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated battery by discharging a firearm, and attempted first-degree murder. O’Brien said prosecutors plan to file additional attempted murder charges.

The “not horrible” series

This report continues our coverage of individuals accused of killing, shooting, or trying to kill or shoot others while on bond for a pending felony case. CWBChicago began our series of reports in November 2019 after Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans publicly stated, “we haven’t had any horrible incidents occur” under the court’s bond reform initiative.

The actual number of murders and shootings committed by people on felony bail is undoubtedly much higher than the numbers seen here. Since 2017, CPD has brought charges in less than 5% of non-fatal shootings and 33% of murders, according to the city’s data. 

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Previous reporting

2022 “not horrible” cases

2021 “not horrible” cases

2020 “not horrible” cases

2019 “not horrible” cases