Officer.com Online Exclusive

Chicago Standoff With Murder Suspect Snarls Traffic

Police late Sunday took into custody a Chicago-area man wanted in connection with his wife's killing in Georgia after police pursued his car from suburban Harvey to North Lake Shore Drive, where the car crashed and a standoff paralyzed the busy roadway for more than eight hours.

Henry County, Ga., police had contacted Harvey police about the location of a vehicle wanted in connection with a murder and police located the car about 12:24 p.m., but the car fled and was pursued to near Fullerton Avenue and Lake Shore Drive, according to a statement from Harvey.

Georgia authorities contacted Harvey police about Joseph Andrew Felton Jr., 43, who is wanted in a murder warrant in connection with the slaying of his wife, Sheray Latriest Felton, who was found dead in her home in Hampton, Ga., on Saturday, according to Henry County police. Felton's sister told the Tribune that she has spoken to Felton during the standoff and he told her he was in the car.

About 9:30 p.m., a man from the vehicle could be seen being taken from the scene on a stretcher. Police would not confirm the name of the suspect and said he suffered lacerations to his body, either self-inflicted or from the crash. Police said the suspect intentionally rammed other vehicles during the chase.

Police used a "distractionary" device and the offender got out of the car on his own, chief of patrol Wayne Gulliford said Sunday night.

Witnesses earlier reported police firing at the vehicle just after the crash about 1 p.m., but police on Sunday night said they were still investigating whether shots were fired and by which department if any. They did confirm that one officer, two adults and one 10-year-old were treated and released for injuries earlier Sunday.

The standoff shut down Lake Shore Drive from near downtown to Lakeview, snarling traffic throughout downtown and the North Side. Police said extremely dark tinted windows on the vehicle hindered them from a quick resolution.

Police said the suspect told a negotiator he was heavily armed with guns, but it's not clear yet if that is true.

Southbound lanes of Lake Shore Drive were open to traffic late Sunday night.

The pursuit began when Harvey police were given a description of the vehicle, its registration, GPS location and arrest warrant information on the suspect, Harvey spokeswoman Sandra Alvarado said. Henry County police have not yet been able to confirm that the person in the car is Felton, said Henry County police spokesman Sgt. Joey Smith.

Harvey police located the vehicle, which fled from officers about 12:27 p.m., beginning a chase on highways and interstates in the south suburbs and on the South Side of Chicago. Eventually the vehicle ended up on South Lake Shore Drive, and then North Lake Shore, where it crashed a little before 1 p.m. near Fullerton Parkway. The dark-colored car came to rest in the grass just to the east of the northbound lanes there and police were seen surrounding it with guns drawn, pointing at the vehicle.

Multiple witnesses said police fired on the suspect vehicle after a crash about 1 p.m. involving the car being pursued and a confrontation with police.

A witness from the Edgewater neighborhood was driving north on Lake Shore Drive when suddenly traffic stopped and four police squad cars drove by, he said. Then the suspects car, "violently" smashed into the rear of another vehicle that was being driven by a woman, he said. Soon after that collision, the witness, who was driving with his wife and child, saw a police officer open fire on the suspect's vehicle, he said.

Then other officers opened fire and the witness said that between 10 to 12 shots were fired. The witness jumped into the back seat of his vehicle to shield his child and his wife crouched down on the floor to avoid getting hit by an errant bullet, they both said.

"I've never seen anything like this in my life," said the witness. "It was very violent."

The witness said the woman got out of the car before shots were fired, and she suffered a head injury. "Her head was bloody," he said, "and she had a boy in the car with her that had to be between 10 and 11."

Another witness said he saw the injured woman as well and heard multiple shots being fired near the scene.

For a while, Felton's sister Lastella Felton was on-scene encouraging Felton to surrender. Lastella Felton said was there because she thought "If he saw one of his sisters maybe he would come out," she said.

"We were shocked that he was in Chicago," she said.

By about 7:30 p.m., Lastella Felton had left the scene, but another sister was still there. Police had not allowed either of the sisters close enough for their brother to see them, Lastella Felton said.

"This could have been resolved many, many, many hours ago," Lastella Felton said.

"I know 100 percent that if he would have seen us then he would have gotten out of the car."

She said police were "trying to wait it out" until Felton surrenders before driving their sister up to the vehicle to talk to their brother.

Felton, one of four siblings who were born and raised in Chicago, moved to Atlanta with his wife about seven months ago, his sister said.

Before Saturday's slaying, Felton already had been arrested on domestic-related charges in January in Georgia, according to police and court records.

In May 2001, Felton was sentenced to 13 years in prison for attempted murder in Cook County criminal court. Before that, he was given probation for attempted murder in 1991. In 1999, he was arrested on a charge of domestic battery in Cook County.

"We don't want him to be hurt, but we want justice to be served as well."

She said she spoke to him on the phone this afternoon during the standoff, saying he was "very discombobulated" and may have cut his wrist in the crash.

"He's just afraid."

Lastella Felton said she and her sister were on standby in case police decide to allow one of them to pull up in an armored vehicle to speak to him.

"I guess he fled and had no other place to go," Lastella said when asked why her brother ended up in Chicago.

Police tried to negotiate with the suspect starting soon after the standoff began.

About 3:30 p.m., more than two hours after the car had crashed, police were trying to get the man in the car to respond by speaking to him through a bullhorn: "If you want to come out, wave your hands."

A little later, a relative was put on the bullhorn, telling the man to come out so he could be taken to the hospital.

A little before 4 p.m., a police SWAT van began approaching the car, according to those at the scene and watching from nearby high-rise buildings.

A witness driving southbound on Lake Shore Drive said that when her family turned a curve near Fullerton Parkway around 1 p.m., they saw a vehicle that was smashed in the front as well as the back. As she got closer to the scene, she saw several police with their guns drawn.

"Oh my goodness, there are guns drawn," said Jennifer Okray. "There are at least 40 emergency vehicles out there."

Okray said she could not see if a person was inside the crashed vehicle because its windows were tinted.

Pat Ryan, who said he was a former police officer, was southbound on Lake Shore Drive when he witnessed what he described as "a felony stop." He said he knew the person inside of the vehicle could have been armed when he saw guns drawn and officers taking cover. He said he saw between 15 and 20 police vehicles in the vicinity of the crashed vehicle, including a Harvey police squad car.

Ryan, who was traveling with three children became concerned for the children's safety. "I started honking my horn because people were stopping and blocking traffic," said Ryan.

According to Chicago Police Department News Affairs, southbound traffic on Lake Shore Drive was being diverted at Belmont; northbound traffic was diverted at North Avenue.

As of 3:30 p.m., News Affairs asked that all media stay west of Lake Shore Drive to ensure safety and called the scene an active barricade situation.

CTA bus routes that usually run on Lake Shore Drive and nearby were being rerouted, according to the CTA.

Sunday afternoon, traffic on southbound Lakeshore Drive backed up miles north of the scene as vehicles diverted slowly off the road via clogged off ramps. To avoid those, some drivers went the wrong way on on-ramps to get off of the drive. Others created pathways through trees and grass on medians to get onto N. Marine Drive.

Around 2 p.m. near West Irving Park Road, a CTA No. 147 bus let passengers out to run across the median onto North Marine Drive.

On surface streets west of the drive, throughout Lakeview and Lincoln Park, traffic crawled Sunday afternoon as drivers found alternate routes to their destinations.

The Chicago Shakespeare Theater had to delay its 2 p.m. Sunday matinee of "Gypsy" because a conductor and several actors were stuck in traffic due to the Lake Shore Drive shutdown. According to an e-mail from a public relations assistant with the theater, the conductor was "whisked" to the orchestra loft upon arrival and the music began before she was seated at the piano. All actors made it to the theater, according to the e-mail, and the matinee began at 2:25 p.m.

At the Lyric Opera, a late orchestra member dashing through the parking garage said he had jumped a curb to get off Lake Shore Drive in order to make a 2 p.m. performance , which started on time.

Bob Backis and his wife, parishioners at St. Gertrude Catholic Church in the Edgewater neighborhood, were on their way to a service at Holy Name Cathedral to accompany someone joining the church when they could not get on to Lake Shore Drive. Finding every entrance ramp closed as they drove south, they parked their car near Wilson Avenue and hopped on the Red Line.

"We were determined to try to make it down any way we could," said Backis, who dashed up the cathedral steps 15 minutes after the ceremony started. He clutched the parish's sacred Book of the Elect, which contained the new member's signature and show of commitment to her new church. Had he not made it to the service, he said, "there would have been disappointment for sure."

Because of the traffic tie-up, dozens of people trickled into the cathedral late, nearly missing the sacred rite of passage.

Tribune photographer Stacey Wescott and Tribune reporters Emily Rosenbaum, Meredith Rodriguez and Liam Ford contributed.

Copyright 2014 - Chicago Tribune

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Loading