CHICAGO (CBS) — A 19-year-old man has been charged with the shooting and robbery of 23-year-old culinary student Dakotah Earley earlier this month, as well as four other armed robberies.
Tyshon Brownlee, of Oak Park, is charged with one count of attempted murder and five counts of armed robbery. He was ordered held without bail at a bond hearing Tuesday afternoon. He is due back in court on May 25 at the Skokie courthouse.
“In these instances involving this defendant, we have five innocent victims, and a community that has been terrorized,” Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said Tuesday morning at a press conference at Chicago Police headquarters.
According to the charges, Brownlee shot Earley three times after robbing him of his cell phone on May 6 on the 1300 block of West Webster Avenue.
The shooting was caught on surveillance video, which shows the man who shot Earley getting out of a white sedan that had just rounded the corner of Wayne and Webster avenues and hiding behind the wall of a building — peeking around the corner as Earley walked down the street.
As Earley approached the corner, the robber came out of hiding and pointed his gun at him. Earley gave the man his bag, then grabbed for the gun, and both fell to the ground as they struggled over the gun.
A second robber with a gun rushed up; and as Earley was struggling with the first robber, one of them can be heard demanding the passcode to his phone. Then the first robber shot Earley and took his cell phone.
WARNING: Video contains graphic content:
As Earley was lying on the ground, the robber again asked him for his passcode before shooting him a second time. After asking the victim for his passcode again, Earley told him some numbers before screaming in pain, and the robber shot him a third time while he was still lying in the street.
Brownlee also is charged with four other armed robberies on May 5 and 6 in Lincoln Park and Lakeview.
Cook County prosecutors said, around 10 pm. on May 5, about five hours before Earley was shot, Brownlee robbed a woman who was walking on the 1100 block of West Barry Avenue while wearing headphones, stealing her purse, phone, and headphones, and demanding her phone’s passcode at gunpoint.
Brownlee then walked across the street and robbed a second woman, who was also walking with her headphones on, and took her phone, and demanded the passcode, prosecutors said. When she gave him the wrong passcode, Brownlee took the headphones off her head, and fled the scene in a stolen white BMW sedan.
Prosecutors said Brownlee hacked into one victim’s iCloud account, made changes on her social media page, and stole money from her Venmo account.
About half an hour after those robberies, Brownlee approached a man on the 2900 block of North Racine Avenue, pointed a gun at his chest, and demanded his phone and passcode, telling the victim he would “come back and pop” him if his code did not work. Brownlee later used that victim’s debit card at a gas station.
Then, just moments before Brownlee shot Earley, prosecutors said he robbed a DePaul University student at gunpoint in the 1100 block of West Fullerton Avenue, taking the victim’s cell phone and wallet, before fleeing the scene in a white car.
Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said Brownlee was arrested at his home on Sunday, after police identified him as the shooter, thanks to surveillance video footage, and an examination of recent crime patterns in the area of the shooting.
Chicago Police Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan said Brownlee admitted to shooting Earley, although Deenihan declined to speculate on why Brownlee shot Earley when he did not fire a gun in any of the other robberies.
“You can almost hear on the video, he takes the victim’s phone, then he starts asking for the passcode,” Deenihan said. “I can’t tell you specifically is that the reason. Obviously the victim in this case fought back. I mean, it was his initial instinct. You guys can see on the video, his initial instincts are to fight back, and then it immediately leads to this shooting.”
Deenihan said Brownlee used a credit card belonging to one of the victims of his robbery spree, which helped detectives track him down.
After identifying Brownlee as a suspect in the shooting of Earley, detectives learned Brownlee himself had been shot on May 10 while riding in a car on Michigan Avenue near Millennium Park.
Detectives went to the hospital to try to question Brownlee, “but he had left the hospital as quickly as possible, probably understanding what was happening as well,” so police weren’t able to arrest him until a few days later.
Prosecutors said, as police were investigating, Brownlee’s picture was placed in a photo array, and an officer recognized him in footage from the gas station where he’d used one of the earlier robbery victim’s cards to get gas.
On Monday, after Brownlee had been arrested, Earley was able to identify him in a photo array by circling Brownlee’s picture in a photo array, because he sis unable to speak due to his wire being jawed shut. When police asked if Brownlee had punched, stabbed, or shot him, Earley made a gun gesture with his fingers and nodded his head, according to prosecutors.
Brown said detectives are still working to identify anyone else involved in the robbery spree.
“We will keep working to hold everyone involved accountable,” Brown said. “We won’t stop investigating until each of these offenders are found.”
Brownlee is due to appear in bond court at noon.
At a community safety meeting Monday night, Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd Ward) said a 19-year-old suspect who was being questioned in Earley’s shooting “has five carjacking arrests on his record in the last two years,” although Hopkins did not identify the suspect by name.
Brown said Tuesday the attempted murder and armed robbery charges are Brownlee’s first arrests as an adult. Any juvenile arrests or charges would not be open to the public.
Earley was walking on Wayne Avenue near Webster Avenue around 3 a.m. on May 6 when one of two robbers came out of hiding and pointed a gun at him. After giving the offender his bag, Earley reached for the gun, and both fell to the ground as they struggled over the gun. He was shot three times while robbers asked for his cellphone password.
He was taken to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in critical condition with two gunshot wounds to the back, and one gunshot wound to the head — resulting in partial loss of his colon. His family has reported he has shown signs of improvement over the past several days.
Hopkins confirmed Earley is out of the coma, breathing on his own and can communicate with hand signals.
“He continues to fight for his life at Illinois Masonic Hospital. The reason I get emotional is I talk to his mother everyday since this incident happened,” Hopkins said. “She’s quite a woman. We pray together and I tried to do the best I could to encourage her and keep her spirits up, but one thing I can’t do is explain why this happened. And I can’t tell her the shame my neighborhood feels that this was allowed to occur on our beautiful manicured streets that we are so proud of. Its just heartbreaking. I know we can’t live this way.”
At Brownlee’s bond hearing, his public defender said the 19-year-old lives with his mother in Chicago, and graduated from North Lawndale College Prep High School in 2020, and now works at a Jewel-Osco store.