He killed a man and carjacked a driver while on pretrial release for a gun case, prosecutors say

Morris Smith, left, and Fredrick Arnold. (Chicago Police Department, National Gun Violence Memorial)

CHICAGO — On an early October evening last year, a University of Illinois Chicago Police Department sergeant saw a group of men walk across the police station parking lot. One of them pulled a gun from his jacket as the sergeant watched.

With the help of backup officers, the sergeant stopped the men and discovered that not one, not two, but three of them were armed with guns, according to UICPD records. All three were arrested and charged.

One of those men, Morris Smith, 19, is now accused of murdering a man and helping commit an armed carjacking in April, not far from the UICPD lot where he was allegedly caught with a gun last fall.

Smith, still on pretrial release for the gun case, is the 16th person accused of shooting, killing, or trying to shoot or kill someone in Chicago this year while on pretrial release. The cases involve 28 victims, six of whom died. He is the fourth to be charged while on release under the SAFE-T Act’s cashless bail system.

During a detention hearing on Thursday, Assistant State’s Attorney Anne McCord Rodgers said Smith borrowed his grandparents’ Toyota van on the evening of April 5 and drove to the Barbara Jean Wright Court Apartments in the 1000 block of West 14th Street. 

He met up with two other men and hung out for a while before they all loaded into the van and drove to the area of Kingsbury and Larrabee in Cabrini-Green. Three more men hopped in the van, and they drove around, eventually winding up in the 1900 block of West 19th Street around 10 p.m., Rodgers said.

They spotted a 34-year-old man sitting in a Volkswagen. As a dashcam inside the VW recorded everything inside and outside the car, four masked men emerged from the van and hijacked the Volkswagen at gunpoint, according to Rodgers. They drove it away, followed by the van.

As the vehicles traveled to the 1000 block of South Maxwell, the hijacker driving the VW removed his mask and then threw the dashcam out of the car, Rodgers said. Investigators recovered the device and preserved footage of the hijacking and the hijackers.

Everyone left the VW on Maxwell Street and returned to the van, Rodgers said. It traveled back to Cabrini-Green and dropped off three men. Then, it returned to the Volkswagen and Smith, along with the two men he initially met at the apartment complex, got into the VW.

According to Rodgers, they ended up on the 1300 block of West 13th Street, where they saw Frederick Arnold, 37, standing next to his car with his girlfriend. Smith and the other men exited the VW and ran toward Arnold, each armed with a gun.

The trio opened fire on Arnold, according to Rodgers. She said Smith fired one round from a rifle, and the other men fired a total of 14 rounds from pistols. Arnold died.

The police eventually recovered the Volkswagen and sent DNA samples to a lab for testing. According to Rodgers, “multiple” people who went to school with Smith in Mississippi identified him in still images from videos recorded on the night of the crimes.

A search warrant executed at his home uncovered a t-shirt he wore on the night of the murder and a live rifle round with the same headstamp as the rifle casing found at the shooting scene, Rodgers said.

Judge William Fahy detained Arnold pending trial.

The “not horrible” series

This report continues our coverage of individuals accused of killing, shooting, or trying to kill or shoot others on pretrial release for a felony allegation. 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.

On September 18, 2023, the state of Illinois eliminated cash bail entirely. Our “not horrible” continues.

The actual number of murders and shootings committed by people awaiting trial for felony allegations 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.

Previous reporting

2024 “not horrible” cases

2023 “not horrible” cases

2022 “not horrible” cases

2021 “not horrible” cases

2020 “not horrible” cases

2019 “not horrible” cases

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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