Video shows Chicago cops didn’t see train that fatally struck them as they kept eye on another train
CHICAGO — The two Chicago officers scrambled up the embankment and walked south on the Metra tracks, keeping an eye on an approaching train as they searched for a shooting suspect.
The noise apparently masked another train coming up fast behind them.
There’s no indication the officers saw the South Shore train before it struck and killed them on a viaduct Monday evening, according to video taken by a body camera on one of the officers.
“They had no idea the train was behind them,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.
Based largely on the bodycam footage, Guglielmi released new details Tuesday about the deaths of Officers Eduardo Marmolejo, 36, and Conrad Gary, 31, both fairly new to the department and fathers of young children. They are the third and fourth Chicago police officers to die in the line of duty this year.
The officers had been called to an area after a ShotSpotter sensor picked up the sound of gunfire, police officials said.
Marmolejo and Gary spotted a suspect, got out of their car and climbed up the embankment to the tracks, Guglielmi said. The footage shows the officers crossing the viaduct, heading south where they thought the suspect went.
“They were deciphering the offender’s direction of flight,” he said. Moments later, a Metra Electric train approached them. They stayed on the southbound side of the tracks “but unfortunately they’re not aware there’s a southbound train.
“They hear the noise (of the northbound train), we suspect. That masks the noise of the other train that is right behind them,” Guglielmi said. The train struck the officers near the 103rd Street Rosemoor stop.
It was not known how fast the southbound train was going, but it was not scheduled to stop at the Rosemoor station. Trains typically travel 65 mph through that stretch, and that train was not supposed to slow down until the Kensington station a mile away, according to Michael Noland, CEO and president of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, which operates South Shore trains on Metra tracks.
South Shore will be downloading the train’s event recorder, which would provide elements like speed and whether the bell or horn was sounded. It will give this information to Chicago police sometime in the next day, Noland said.
There are four Metra tracks on the west side of where the accident happened and three Canadian National tracks. The South Shore train was on the western-most track and the Metra train was on the track third from the west, according to Metra.
If a Metra train were coming in the other direction, it is common practice for the two approaching trains to dim their lights. Noland said South Shore does not know whether that happened on its train. Metra spokesman Michael Gillis said a front light was dimmed on the Metra train.
A northbound Metra train stopped at the Rosemoor station at 6:18 p.m., Gillis said. The incident happened after this. Gillis said the South Shore and Metra train would have passed each other shortly after Metra’s train was pulling out of the station.
Police recovered a weapon near where the officers were struck and were questioning a person of interest Tuesday, Guglielmi said. Shell casings were found on the scene, near where the ShotSpotter had picked up gunfire, but there are no reports that the officers were shot at or fired their guns, he said.
After the bodies were taken to the morgue, in a procession of police cars, police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and other staff viewed the video showing the sequence of events, Guglielmi said. Police continued to search the viaduct Tuesday morning to make sure that they had not missed any evidence. Trains were not stopping at the station.
The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, which operates South Shore trains, uses Metra tracks.
Marmolejo and Gary are among four Chicago police officers killed while on duty this year.
On Nov. 19, Officer Samuel Jimenez, 28, was killed in a mass shooting at Mercy Hospital & Medical Center on the Near South Side. Two women, Dr. Tamara O’Neal, 38, and pharmacist Dayna Less, 24, were also killed before the gunman shot himself.
On Feb. 13, Cmdr. Paul Bauer, 53, was fatally shot while chasing a suspect to a stairwell outside the Thompson Center in the Loop.
Marmolejo and Gary were assigned to the Calumet District on the Far South Side where three other officers have died this year. Two died from suicides outside the district’s police station on East 111th Street. The third officer, 47-year-old Vinita Williams, died in July after collapsing at the station.
The deaths of Marmolejo and Gary mark the first time in almost 30 years that two Chicago police officers were killed in the line of duty during the same incident. Officers Raymond Kilroy and Gregory Hauser were fatally shot on May 13, 1990, while responding to a domestic disturbance on the Northwest Side.