The two groups of young men jawing at the Jackson Red Line station were a sign of the bad commute to come, Ted Pertzborn lamented as he boarded the train Thursday night.
A regular rider of the 7:45-ish Howard-bound train, Pertzborn braced for at least a few stops’ worth of loud conversation between the parties, if he picked the wrong car. As he watched the train roll out of the subway tunnel toward the platform, Pertzborn grew still more apprehensive hearing the two groups trading gang-related insults.
Pertzborn took a seat at the front of a nearly empty car at the head of the train. From his seat, he saw saw a man in his early 20s break from the group on the platform and slip aboard the car, closely followed by another man. Another passenger blocked the second man at the doors.
“He put his hands on the guy’s chest and said, ‘Not on the train, guys,’ because I guess it looked like they were fighting,” Pertzborn recalled Friday. “Then the guy raised his hand and fired five, maybe six shots at the guy from across the car. I was about 6 feet away from the guy who got shot.”
“The guy was four of five feet away from the victim, and he managed to hit him in the foot and shoulder and the arm with six shots. I’m glad he was the lousiest shot in the world, because otherwise, I would have witnessed a murder.”
The 23-year-old victim was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where police said his condition was stable. In a Thursday press conference at the station, Deputy Chief Kevin Navarro said it appeared the gunman had been waiting for the train to arrive and stepped into the car knowing his target was aboard. Pertzborn insisted the two men had likely been on the platform together, and the shooter had followed his victim to the train doors.
Police released a surveillance image early Saturday of a man described as a “person of interest” in the shooting, shown near the turnstiles of the station. He is described as a black man between 20 and 25 years old, wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt pulled tightly over his head, with dark sweatpants, white shoes and a blue cinch bag. He’s thought to be about 5-foot-10 and about 160 pounds.
CPD spokesman Frank Giancamilli on Friday said that detectives reviewed video that showed two groups in a brawl near the station, then the victim and his friends arriving at the platform, followed by the other group, as the train arrives.
Pertzborn ducked behind a metal wall near the conductor’s booth at the sound of gunshots, then called 911 and slammed down the alert button on the train. He remained inside the train for a few minutes before stepping out onto the subway platform. The wounded man’s friends bounded onto the train and put pressure on the man’s wounds, but all but one of them fled before police got there. The one friend who stayed was approached by a police officer, who asked the man’s name.
“He just said, ‘I didn’t see nothin’,'” Pertzborn said.
Pertzborn, who said he meticulously times his commute each day, said it was 15 minutes before he saw police arrive. CPD dispatch records say police arrived within two minutes of receiving the call, Giancamilli said.
The station, at 230 N. State, is one of the busiest in the CTA system, though rush hour crowds were long gone at the time of the shooting, Pertzborn said. Still, the brazenness of the shooter appalled him.
“Jackson is one of the busiest stops in the Loop, and these guys are popping off at each other in front of 20 or 30 CTA cameras,” Pertzborn said. “These guys are not trained assassins.”
Pertzborn said he couldn’t see the shooter’s face at any time.
He stayed at the station long enough to talk to a police officer, then opted to take a Lyft home. Pertzborn didn’t feel up to getting on the train again Friday morning, and he’s considering taking a new route to work.
“I may be re-thinking the way I commute,” Pertzborn said.
Anyone with information should call police at (312) 747-8380.