Murder trial begins in death of homeless man hit by fire extinguisher

Special to the Tribune

A Chicago man who heaved a fire extinguisher from an Elgin parking garage set in motion the events that led to a homeless person's death, a prosecutor argued Monday at the man's murder trial.

Yancarlo Garcia, 24, of the 1100 block of North Lawndale Avenue, went on trial in Kane County Monday on a charge of first-degree murder in the death of Richard Gibbons.

Gibbons was struck by the 15-pound fire extinguisher about 1:30 a.m. on Aug. 11, 2011 and died three weeks later from sepsis.

Garcia and three other people were atop the five-story parking deck in the 200 block of Fulton Street and had been taunting Gibbons, 61, who had been sleeping in the alley about 60 feet below, officials said. The four had been drinking and had tossed some smaller items down at the homeless man, according to police.

Gibbons, 61, was calling 911 to complain of the situation when the extinguisher struck him in the abdomen. Jurors are expected to hear the 911 tape – and Gibbons' howls of pain – during the trial, according to prosecutors.

"This was not a prank, and this was not a teenaged mistake," Assistant State's Atty. Bill Engerman told jurors in his opening statement.

Gibbons suffered a broken pelvic bone and a badly bruised colon, and his condition deteriorated until he died in a hospital about three weeks after he was struck.

Garcia's attorney called her client's actions terrible and inexcusable – but not murder.

"He wasn't aiming for anything at all, other than the ground below, in order to startle Mr. Gibbons," Public Defender Kelli Childress told jurors.

She said it is just as likely that Gibbons' poor health contributed to the sepsis that caused his death. He was a severe alcoholic with hepatitis and a host of other serious medical issues, Childress said.

The trial, which is being heard by Judge Karen Simpson, is expected to go to the jury later this week.| Twitter: @TribLocal

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