Wisconsin man charged with shooting Amtrak conductor at Illinois station

2017-05-19 | Chicago Tribune

A retired federal law enforcement officer has been charged in this week's shooting of an Amtrak conductor outside Chicago.

Edward Klein, 79, of West Allis, Wis., appeared in DuPage County bond court Friday morning, charged in Tuesday's train station shooting in which the Amtrak conductor, a 45-year-old man from Homewood, Ill., was seriously injured.

Prosecutors said Klein was returning from an aborted trip to Las Vegas and was planning on catching a train to Milwaukee, but he tried to leave the train at a scheduled stop in Naperville, Ill.

He faces attempted murder and aggravated battery charges. He was ordered held in lieu of $1.5 million bail.

When Amtrak personnel prevented Klein from getting off, he became enraged, drew a pistol before leaning out a window and shooting the conductor, who was on the platform, once in the torso, prosecutors said

Other passengers subdued Klein. The conductor, who underwent emergency surgery, remains in intensive care, prosecutors said.

Klein was a retired federal protective services officer who resides at an independent living facility in the Milwaukee suburb, Assistant State's Attorney Claudia Fantauzzo said.

Prosecutors said the state of Wisconsin had revoked a concealed carry permit Klein had obtained. Prosecutors also said Klein told them he had pulled his weapon during two other altercations, but they did not provide information in court on either incident.

During the bond hearing, Klein did not appear to grasp the nature of the situation. He said several times that he would be leaving tomorrow and declined the services of a public defender.

"I don't need one if I'm leaving," he said.

Other passengers and rail personnel had said Klein had been exhibiting unusual behavior during the train trip from Kansas City. Klein had planned on traveling to Las Vegas but changed his mind and had gotten off the train in Kansas City to return home, the prosecutor said.

Klein told authorities he was angry that he would not be allowed to leave the train at Naperville.

The prosecutor said that Klein told authorities, "I had built up all this anger and I blew him away."

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Earlier this week, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari called the incident unusual, noting that firearms are prohibited as carry-on items. However, they may be stowed as checked luggage with certain restrictions.

Magliari said the railroad does random screening of passengers and their carry-on baggage at both large and small stations. He would not say whether the individual in custody was screened, saying that is part of the ongoing investigation.

"The fact that sometimes there are passengers who are disruptive is not infrequent, but this level of incident is highly unusual," Magliari said Wednesday.

Amtrak's security model differs from the kind of screening airlines use because not all Amtrak stations are staffed, Magliari said. It is a model more closely aligned with that used for other forms of surface transportation, such as bus service or commuter rail.

Metra police Chief Joseph Perez and Metra spokesman Michael Gillis concurred with Magliari's assessment of the difficulty in monitoring such things as passengers with guns.

Metra has focused heavily on boosting the number of police officers that ride its trains and increasing passenger awareness that officers are always close by, Perez said.

While he would not say how many of his officers ride on a daily basis, Perez said "it's probably an 80 percent to 90 percent increase" from what the agency had just several years ago.

"We do ride a very random schedule, we do whatever we can to not be predictable," he said. "Because, like every rail police department in the world, we don't have enough cops to put on every train. In addition to that, we've done extensive training with our conductors and staff to recognize suspicious behavior.

"I think like everyone else, we're all working hard to increase our visibility and presence. That's the key, for people to actually see police officers around. And we're working really hard to develop interactions with our ridership. So if our passengers see something, our officers are much more approachable."

Compounding the problem for police and security workers is the sheer volume of passengers that ride Metra. Gillis said the agency is the second largest commuter railway in the nation in terms of the distance it covers and is one of the largest in terms of ridership, serving 80.4 million passengers in 2016.

In comparison, the most recent study by the Montreal-based Airports Council International showed that in 2015, O'Hare International Airport saw nearly 77 million passengers pass through its gates.

The shooting is an example of an incident that can't be predicted, Naperville's mayor said.

"Sometimes these random situations land in our lap, and we have to deal with them," Mayor Steve Chirico said Wednesday. "I don't know that this is the type of situation that can be avoided."

John Henry Behrens III, 23, said he arrived at the Naperville Metra station just after the shooting to catch the 5:05 p.m. express train from Naperville to Chicago, where he lives.

"When I turned the corner to walk toward the end of the platform, the conductor was lying on the ground, hands over his abdomen," Behrens said. " One of the first responders had shouted out that they had a 'GSW to the abdomen.'"

The injured conductor seemed to be "very responsive" as they transported him into the ambulance, Behrens said.

"I must've gotten there within a minute of the shooting, because there were only a small handful of first responders when I first showed up and police were still running around trying to figure out what was going on," Behrens said.

Police quickly separated witnesses from people who didn't see the shooting unfold, and police built a perimeter around the station, Behrens said.

"I was incredibly confused, and I think everyone was just kind of confused. A lot of people didn't even know where to look," Behrens said. "Most of the people were getting to the platform right as everything was going on."

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