Police say this was likely a tragic split-second decision made by the victim to hold onto the moving vehicle. What started out as simple auto theft quickly turned into murder charges. State police approved charges Wednesday night against 32-year-old Herman Burnett of Chicago. He faces one count of first-degree murder and one count of vehicular hijacking. He appeared in court Thursday and is being held without bond.
Witnesses say it happened so quickly that 36-year-old Eric Holmes likely just reacted, probably never considering the consequences, as he jumped on to the roof of his mother's minivan while a thief tried to drive away with it from a South Side gas station.
"I saw him just jump on top of the van I see him going down the expressway," said Warren Satchel, witness.Satchel says he watched as he saw the suspect try to throw Holmes from the vehicle. He drove toward the Dan Ryan Expressway with Holmes still clinging to the roof trying to open the door. Others witnesses say the driver then veered toward the median wall.
"He was intentionally, violently swinging the vehicle back and forth in an attempt to shake off the driver. We don't know if he intended actually to hit the wall on purpose or if he lost control of the vehicle because of the swerving," said Master Sgt. Joe Micci, Illinois State Police.
Burnett tried to run from the scene, but witnesses say police quickly caught him. State police investigators interviewed witnesses all day Wednesday, building a case while the victim's family tries to come to grips with their tragic loss. Holmes leaves behind a wife and six young children.
"I'm not going to let him get away with killing my son. I can't," said Carolyn Holmes, victim's mother.
"Regardless of the situation his children came first. Even if he had to sacrifice for his own, he provided for them" said David Brunson, victim's stepfather.
Police say Burnett has a lengthy police record and has not cooperated with the investigation thus far. Police, however, say they do have several pictures of the suspect from surveillance cameras taken along the route, from where it started at 95 and State all the way to where it ended up at 87th and the Dan Ryan. They still are hoping more witnesses will come forward.