Driver of car that carried toddler shot on Lake Shore Drive appears in court on gun charge as boy remains hospitalized

Megan Crepeau, Jeff Cercone and Charles J. Johnson, Chicago Tribune
·4 min read

CHICAGO — A man who was at the wheel of a car carrying a toddler who was critically wounded during a road-rage shooting on Lake Shore Drive this week grew tearful in court Thursday as he appeared on a gun possession charge.

The man, identified in court as the child’s grandfather, was given a $5,000 bond. The child, struck in the head when someone fired into the man’s car Tuesday, remained in critical condition at a downtown hospital.

“Just hearing my grandson’s name, I get emotional,” said Jushawn Brown, 43, who was audibly upset during the videoconferenced court hearing.

Cook County prosecutors said Brown was driving with his girlfriend and their 1-year-old grandson on Lake Shore Drive near Soldier Field when a speeding SUV almost hit them.

Brown pulled over toward a wall and started yelling at the SUV, and soon he was in an argument with the other driver, prosecutors said.

The SUV driver pulled out a gun and asked Brown “what he wanted to do about it,” while dangling the weapon, prosecutors said. At that point, Brown grabbed his own gun and placed it in his lap, prosecutors said.

Brown kept driving, but the SUV was close behind and its driver fired several shots, hitting the car multiple times, prosecutors said.

One bullet came through a window and struck 1-year-old Kayden Swann in the head.

After an earlier news release said Brown fired shots at the SUV, a later release omitted that information.

“That is still under investigation,” said Sgt. Rocco Alioto, about Brown allegedly firing.

Prosecutors said he kept the gun in his lap. None of the spent cartridge casings recovered from the shooting scene match Brown’s gun, prosecutors said.

Asked for clarification Thursday, a police spokesman said the circumstances of the shooting are under investigation.

One witness did tell officers that Brown returned fire, according to a police report obtained by the Tribune.

After the SUV driver fired shots, Brown lost control of his car and crashed, prosecutors said, and Brown took his gun and left the car. A nearby good Samaritan drove the child and his grandmother to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The child was then transferred to Lurie Children’s Hospital.

Police arrived at the hospital and learned that Brown was armed, then approached him and asked if he was carrying anything he shouldn’t have, prosecutors said.

Brown said he had his “protection” on him, prosecutors said, and police recovered a 9 mm pistol when they patted him down.

Brown is charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon. His attorney noted in court Thursday that Brown, who works as a machine operator at a local candy company, was fully cooperative and honest with officers.

In setting bond, Judge Charles Beach noted that Brown is not alleged to be the instigator or even charged with firing the gun.

“I wish the best for you and your family and your grandson, I can’t imagine a thing worse than what you’re experiencing at this moment,” Beach told Brown before setting bond at $5,000. Brown will need to post $500 to be released from custody while awaiting trial.

No one else had been charged in the shooting and a police spokesperson tweeted early Thursday that police were still searching for the person who fired the shot that struck the toddler.

Swann remained in critical condition Thursday in the pediatric ICU at Lurie, where he was taken Tuesday from Northwestern. He was in a medical coma to protect his brain Wednesday. Dr. Marcelo Malakooti, medical director of the pediatric ICU, said Thursday that doctors have had begun to reduce his sedation levels.

“As of last night, we were successful in lifting some of the sedation medication Kayden required to protect his brain. This procedure provides us with a better idea of his clinical state,” Malakooti said in a statement. “We are pleased to see Kayden make some recovery as he is demonstrating some return in brain activity. While it is still very early to make any meaningful prediction about his total recovery, we are optimistic about the clinical signs we are seeing.”

Late Tuesday evening, Swann’s family members said the boy appeared to be improving.

“The bullet went in and came out,” Kayden’s great-grandfather told WGN-Ch. 9. “He’s been in surgery. It looks to be like he’s going to be OK.”

That Swann’s condition had not worsened since his arrival at the hospital “provides us with a cautious hope,” Malakooti said.

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