Man denies intent in 2011 Elgin fire extinguisher death
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A 24-year-old Chicago man accused of first-degree murder took the witness stand Friday and repeatedly said he was not aiming at anyone or anything when he threw a fire extinguisher off the fifth floor of a downtown Elgin parking deck in August 2011.
The falling extinguisher broke the pelvis of Richard Gibbons, a 61-year-old homeless man who was trying to sleep in an alley below.
Gibbons died in early September 2011 and Kane County authorities charged Yancarlo Garcia with murder, saying he launched the 15-pound extinguisher off the deck knowing Gibbons was below and that action caused Gibbons' death.
Garcia, 22 at the time, on the witness stand recalled how he lied to his girlfriend and mother of his two daughters, ages 1 and 3, in order to go out with his brother and two girls Aug. 11, 2011, in Elgin. Garcia's girlfriend caught him in the lie, but he decided to leave anyway.
The four got drunk and high on marijuana before heading to the top of the parking deck at 245 Fulton St., where a girl noticed Gibbons sleeping in an alley below. The girls began to verbally antagonize Gibbons, before Garcia and his brother looked around for items to toss at Gibbons in an attempt to wake him up.
First it was an empty water bottle, then an empty can and a CD case.
Garcia's brother grabbed a fire extinguisher to spray down at Gibbons. But after it didn't spray, Garcia testified, Garcia took it with his right hand and threw it sidearm over a wall toward the alley.
"I didn't throw it in his direction exactly," Garcia testified. "I didn't aim at him or look down. I was several feet away from the wall and my intent was to make some noise."
Assistant State's Attorney Bill Engerman attacked Garcia's credibility, pointing out the lies to Garcia's girlfriend and to Elgin police in September 2011.
Engerman also argued Garcia knew where Gibbons was in the alley because Garcia knew the CD case and other items didn't hit Gibbons.
Gibbons was hit by the extinguisher while calling 911, and prosecutors played tapes during the trial in which Gibbons could be heard screaming in pain and yelling in anger.
But Garcia said he and the others drove off after hearing a loud bang and had no idea that anyone was injured. They drove back to the deck about 10 minutes later after one girl thought she left her cellphone there. They saw a bunch of police cars and an ambulance and decided not to look for the phone.
Public Defender Kelli Childress has argued during the weeklong trial it was an "unlucky bounce" off the side of the parking deck or a second-level pedestrian walkway connected to a building that caused the extinguisher to hit Gibbons. She also argued Gibbons was an alcoholic with hepatitis C, cirrhosis and other health issues and that these caused his death rather than the fire extinguisher injury.
Closing arguments are scheduled Monday morning before Judge Karen Simpson.
If convicted, Garcia faces between 20 and 60 years in prison.
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