Chicago police say the attempted armed robbery of a slain Cook County judge and his injured girlfriend early Monday was not a random act while announcing murder and other charges against the first of several suspects.
Police also revealed that shell casings found outside the judge's Far South Side home matched ballistics evidence from an attempted armed robbery in the early morning hours three months ago. The victim was shot and wounded.
At a news conference Wednesday evening at police headquarters, Chief of Detectives Melissa Staples answered few questions, emphasizing that the investigation remained "open and ongoing" and that more details would come out in court Thursday. But she did call the attack on Associate Judge Raymond Myles and his girlfriend "a targeted robbery." However, Staples wouldn't say whether it was the judge or his girlfriend who was the target of the robbery.
According to the Cook County state's attorney's office, Joshua T. Smith, 37, was charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, aggravated battery with a firearm and armed robbery.
Tandra Simonton, spokeswoman for State's Attorney Kim Foxx, said Smith is expected to appear in bond court at the Leighton Criminal Court Building on Thursday.
Police would not identify Smith's role in the attempted armed robbery, but multiple law enforcement sources told the Chicago Tribune that he acted as the alleged getaway driver.
According to court records, Smith was charged in Cook County Circuit Court in 2002 with armed robbery, aggravated vehicular hijacking and aggravated unlawful restraint. He pleaded guilty the following year to armed robbery and was sentenced to six years in prison, the records show.
Police are still seeking the gunman and a third participant, according to sources.
At the news conference, Staples said video surveillance in the area of the judge's home in the West Chesterfield neighborhood played a crucial role in identifying the getaway car used in the attempted holdup and its license plate. The cameras did not capture the shooting itself, however, she said.
There had been a push recently to get cameras installed throughout the neighborhood - an effort that the judge had joined in.
"I can tell you that the placement and the concentration of cameras in and outside of the judge's neighborhood was instrumental for detectives to get a jump-start on this case," Staples said.
Tactical officers found the suspected getaway car - a red 2005 Pontiac Sunfire - in the Calumet Police District on the city's Far South Side on Tuesday night, even though its license plate had been switched since the shooting in an attempt to "hinder our investigative efforts," Staples said. The officers noticed the car had different plates on the front and rear, she said.
Records show that Smith shares an address with the woman who owns the Pontiac. But detectives do not believe she was involved in the attempted holdup, Staples said.
Staples told reporters that the shell casings found outside the judge's home matched those retrieved at the scene of an attempted armed robbery and shooting in the Englewood neighborhood in January, but she said the two shootings don't appear to be otherwise linked. Police said guns used in Chicago shootings often change hands and that the victim of the January holdup attempt was not cooperating with investigators. The victim, identified by police sources as an alleged gang member with a long arrest record, was shot in the leg.
The brazen attack on Myles, believed to be the first fatal shooting of a Chicago-area judge in more than three decades, touched off a massive investigation.
An early riser, Myles was up before dawn Monday, getting ready to go to the gym with his girlfriend before reporting to his courtroom. But as the 52-year-old woman left the two-story brick residence shortly before 5 a.m., she was confronted near the garage by a gunman who shot her in the leg, according to police. Hearing the commotion, Myles, 66, ran outside and exchanged words with the assailant before he was shot and killed.
A neighbor and friend of the judge told the Tribune he was awakened by the shouts of the woman and the crack of about six gunshots. "She was screaming, 'Don't kill him, don't kill him!' " the neighbor said.
An autopsy found Myles had been shot multiple times, the Cook County medical examiner's office said Tuesday.
The FBI has offered $25,000 for information leading to the apprehension of the killer.
Sheriff Tom Dart's office investigates about 10 death threats against Cook County judges a year but had no record of any threats against Myles in recent years.
News of Myles' death stunned colleagues at the county's main criminal courthouse at 26th Street and California Avenue, where Myles had worked for years. Longtime courthouse employees described Myles as hardworking and friendly. He was assigned to the "youthful offenders" call, where he heard narcotics cases involving defendants about age 27 and younger.