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updated: 8/6/2013 5:12 AM

Not guilty verdict in Elgin fire extinguisher death

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  • Yancarlo Garcia

      Yancarlo Garcia

 
 

A Kane County jury Monday afternoon found a Chicago man not guilty in the death of a homeless Elgin man who was struck by a fire extinguisher that was thrown off the fifth floor of a downtown parking deck two years ago.

The jury deliberated 2 hours before finding Yancarlo Garcia not guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Richard Gibbons, 61. They also found Garcia not guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

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Kane County Assistant State's Attorney Bill Engerman said afterward he had no comment about why the jury acted as it did, but that he respected the jury's verdict and its consideration of the evidence.

"Obviously we felt we had a strong enough case to present to the jury," he said.

Jurors were not polled as to how they voted. A unanimous vote was required for conviction.

Kane County Public Defender Kelli Childress argued again Monday during closing statements that while her client may have done something stupid, Gibbons' pre-existing medical conditions could have caused his death in August 2011.

Engerman said the injury, a broken pelvis, set off a "domino reaction" that led to multiple-organ failure and death.

Gibbons was an alcoholic, and had hepatitis C, an enlarged heart and high blood pressure, according to hospital records. An autopsy also revealed gallbladder disease, a scarred liver and pancreatitis. The defense argued he had those before the attack, but Engerman said tests conducted when Gibbons was admitted to the hospital did not show evidence of that; he contended the pancreatitis developed during Gibbons' three-week hospital stay.

Garcia, who was 22 at the time, had gone to the parking deck with his brother and two women to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana. Gibbons was lying on some cardboard on the ground, sleeping, according to police.

The group first threw empty water bottles and a CD case at Gibbons, and taunted him. One of the women testified she told Garcia not to throw the fire extinguisher, saying it was too heavy.

Childress reiterated her contention that the fire extinguisher bounced off a metal pedestrian walkway before striking Gibbons, and that Garcia had slung it over the wall underhanded, with one hand. Engerman disputed that, saying fingerprint evidence showed Garcia had thrown it overhand with two hands. He also said that a phone recording of a 911 call Gibbons had made, to complain about being harassed by people throwing objects at him, did not have any sound of the extinguisher hitting anything else before striking Gibbons.

A murder conviction would have required the jury to find that Garcia knew that throwing the extinguisher created "a strong probability of death or great bodily harm" to the victim, according to Illinois law. Involuntary manslaughter requires finding that the act would "likely" cause death or great bodily harm, and was done recklessly.

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