A Chicago man has been charged with first-degree murder and attempted armed robbery in the Jan, 19 slaying of a Bensenville convenience store owner.
Stephan A. Russell, 20, pleaded not guilty Friday morning and is being held without bond after being accused by his co-defendants and prosecutors as being the gunman who killed Hussein Saghir. If convicted, he faces natural life in prison.
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Assistant State's Attorney Tim Diamond said Friday that Saghir, and his brother were closing Sam's Tobacco and Food Mart at 235 W. Irving Park Road about 5:45 p.m. Jan. 19 when they were confronted by Russell and Kenneth Bardlett, 20, of Bellwood.
Diamond said Bardlett grabbed Saghir's brother, Ahmad, and attempted to drag him back into the store while Russell kept a handgun pointed at Hussein Saghir.
When Hussein Saghir refused to re-enter the store, apparently to protect his 3-year-old nephew who was inside, Russell fired one shot from a black revolver over Hussein's head, Diamond said.
Hussein continued to struggle outside the store when, Diamond said, Russell fired one shot into his chest, killing Saghir almost instantly.
The robbery almost didn't happen because the suspects expected only one employee to be working, authorities said.
"They exited the store and called an individual to see if they should still commit the robbery because there was only supposed to be one person in the store," Diamond said. "After being told to continue with the robbery, Russell and Bardlett can be seen approaching the store again."
Diamond said signals transmitted from cellphones recovered during the investigation were tracked back to Bensenville during and after the murder as the men returned to Chicago.
Russell, wearing an orange jail jumpsuit and cuffed, shook his head several times while watching surveillance footage of the killing that played in court Friday morning.
Diamond said Bardlett, who has previous convictions for unlawful use of a weapon and reckless conduct, confessed to planning the armed robbery and, during multiple police interviews, identified Russell as the gunman and Tremayne Davis, 23, as the driver of the getaway vehicle. Diamond said Davis, after his arrest, also identified Russell as the lone gunman.
Diamond said photos, found on both Facebook and the men's' cellphones, show Russell in Davis' basement holding the murder weapon up to his own head just days before the shooting.
Bardlett pleaded guilty Thursday to a lesser crime of aggravated battery with a firearm and agreed to cooperate with police and testify against all co-defendants.
Davis remains held on $2.5 million bail. Davis is charged with first-degree murder, attempted armed robbery and obstruction of justice.
Diamond said Thursday that Bardlett also has identified two other men who drove a separate car and served as "counter-surveilance" to watch for police in the area. They have yet to be apprehended.
In a separate case, related to the shooting, Russell is charged with four counts of harassing a family member of a witness and two counts of intimidation using physical harm. He's accused of throwing a bottle at Bardlett's mother and threatening to kill Bardlett's sister.
Russell is next due in court on April 22.