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5 charged in violent robbery on Red Line

Five people were charged with felonies after allegedly carrying out a violent robbery early Friday on the Red Line that left a 42-year-old man with a fractured face and a stab wound to his shoulder, prosecutors announced Sunday.

The man was able to use his own knife to stab two of the assailants and he was eventually able to jump from a train car to safety, prosecutors said at the suspects’ initial court hearing.

Shawn Gullens, 20, of North Center; Latoya Thomas, 22, of the West Loop; Larone Williams, 36, of Austin; and Vernon Holman, 52, of Humboldt Park, were charged with armed robbery and aggravated battery, court records show. Martinez Owens, 24, of Humboldt Park, was charged with attempted robbery and aggravated battery.

The victim was targeted after hopping on a southbound train at Addison Street, Chicago Police said. Owens and another male, who hasn’t been identified, initially approached him and tried to wrestle away his cellphone, according to Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Ashley Behncke.

After struggling to fend off his attackers, two other accomplices entered the train car and one of them began kicking him as he laid on the ground, Behncke said. Fearing for his life, the man took out a knife and stabbed Owens in the back.

When Owens and the others ran off, the man ran to another car and called 911, Behncke said. He held the car’s door shut but ultimately let Holman inside because he didn’t recognize him from the initial attack.

As Holman wrestled him to the ground, the man began swinging his knife in self-defense, prosecutors said. After striking Holman in the neck, the man hopped off the train when it arrived at the North/Clybourn station.

That’s when Williams approached and shattered a glass bottle over his head, according to Behncke, who said the man retreated to a train car as Thomas and Gullens gave chase. After Thomas struck the man and took his backpack, Gullens hit him with another glass bottle and Williams continued the attack.

The man was eventually able to open a door, escape to the other side of the tracks and call 911 again, authorities said. He was rushed to Northwestern Memorial in serious condition after suffering multiple injuries, including fractures to his face and a stab wound to his left shoulder.

The five suspects were all arrested at the scene, Behncke said. Police previously reported that three of them were also hospitalized.

Holman, a five-time felon who was most notably convicted in a 1987 murder, was still being treated at Stroger Hospital on Sunday. Judge Barbara Dawkins set his bail at $250,000, though he also faces an outstanding warrant and a bail bond violation in separate assault cases. His bail was set at $1,000 in the latter case.

Williams — who has twice been convicted of felonies, including a 2010 criminal sexual assault — was ordered held on $100,000 bail. He pleaded guilty last Tuesday to a misdemeanor count of retail theft and was also held without bail for violating the terms of his probation.

Gullens, who was previously convicted of a misdemeanor gun charge in Indiana, and Owens, who has a felony drug conviction, both had their bail set at $75,000. They were also hit with bail bond violations and held on $1,000 bail in pending theft cases.

Thomas, who has prior misdemeanor convictions for battery and property damage, was held on $50,000 bail.

All five are expected in court in the new case on Aug. 1.

To address spiking violent crime on buses and trains, city leaders announced new public safety measures in March. In addition to adding more unarmed security guards, Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said more officers were being deployed to target gangs and drug crimes and patrol the rail lines.

“What we need to do is make sure that, on every platform across our system, you, the commuters, see the visibility of sworn police officers as well as these unarmed security guards,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.

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