Three men, including the man suspected of the execution-style shooting of 33-year-old Michael Smith of Brookfield in January, have been charged with first-degree murder, Police Chief James Episcopo announced Monday.
The suspected gunman, Jermaine E. Douglas, 25, of the 7100 block of South Whipple Street in Chicago, is being held without bond at Cook County Jail. His alleged accomplices, Comfort K. Robinson, 39, of the 2100 block of South 13th Avenue in Broadview, and DeJuyon M. Johnican, 29, of the 1400 block of South 57th Avenue in Cicero, are being held on $250,000 bond.
The three men appeared at the Maybrook courthouse for a preliminary hearing on Monday.
“These are evil men who will now answer to our justice system for their actions,” Episcopo said at a press conference Monday afternoon at Brookfield Village Hall.
According to police, the three men conspired to kill Smith, who was a witness in a criminal case involving Robinson, apparently to prevent him from testifying.
Smith was killed just after noon on Jan. 27 as he sat in his car outside his residence in the 3600 block of Forest Avenue. Earlier that morning, Robinson’s criminal case was set for a bench trial, and Smith was schedule to testify. However, Robinson’s attorney asked for a continuance, which was granted, and Smith did not testify.
The criminal case was related to a March 8, 2015, incident for which Robinson was charged with unlawful use of a weapon and being an armed habitual criminal. The disturbance was at a night club called The Shrine, 2109 S. Wabash Ave. in Chicago, where Smith was working as a contract security guard and intervened. Robinson was found to be in possession of a handgun and arrested.
Both Robinson and Smith left the courthouse on the morning of Jan. 28. As Smith drove home, he was followed, according to police. As Smith parked his car in front of his Brookfield home, Douglas allegedly pulled up alongside Smith in a blue hatchback vehicle and fired several rounds at point-blank range, killing him.
Police said Smith’s wife and 3-year-old son were inside the residence waiting to have lunch with Smith when they heard the gunshots. Smith’s wife ran outside to find Michael had been shot and called 911. Police reported finding the subpoena for the Robinson court case in Smith’s pocket.
“Michael Smith was a good man, a model citizen and hardworking family man who was killed in the prime of his life,” Episcopo said. “My heart goes out to his family and friends for their tremendous loss.”
Brookfield police reported finding the blue hatchback vehicle in Chicago a day after the shooting. Police also reportedly recovered evidence showing that Robinson, Douglas and Johnican met at different locations both before and after the shooting.
Episcopo said Brookfield detectives initially worked on the case with the west suburban Major Case Assistance Team and in March requested the assistance of the FBI. Since that time, said Episcopo, FBI agents and Brookfield police have worked side by side collecting evidence. Brookfield police also were assisted by the DuPage County Felony Investigative Assistance Team, Chicago police and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“Since the time of Michael’s murder, not a day has gone by that someone … from one of these agencies didn’t do something to bring us closer to solving this case,” Episcopo said.
Brookfield police were granted an arrest warrant for Douglas on Nov. 14 and took him into custody after a high-speed chase involving Chicago officers and FBI agents on Nov. 15 on Chicago’s South Side.
Police reported recovering a loaded .50-caliber handgun when Douglas was arrested. Police say that weapon was not involved in Smith’s shooting. Asked if police had recovered the murder weapon, Episcopo declined comment.
Johnican also was arrested on Nov. 15 without incident near his Cicero home.
Police obtained a warrant for Robinson’s arrest on Nov. 17 and took him into custody on the day he was scheduled to be released from Danville Correctional Center after serving nine months of an 18-month sentence for felony driving while revoked, a conviction in connection with a DUI arrest unrelated to the night club incident.
Robinson was sent to Danville just three weeks after Smith was killed. He was scheduled for release on Nov. 18. Robinson has prior convictions for robbery, drug offenses and weapons offenses.
Asked if police expected any more arrests related to Smith’s shooting, Episcopo stated, “The case is not closed. I can’t comment further.”
Episcopo said police have remained in close contact with Smith’s family, who told him they were praying for justice and closure.
“They were praying for us to stay safe as we worked on solving this case,” Episcopo said. “Well, I’m happy to say that I believe we accomplished both.”