Sally Katona-King, 68, died after sustaining injuries when someone knocked her down the stairs at the Fullerton "L" stop as he ran off with another commuter's iPhone. The Cook County Medical Examiner has ruled the death a homicide.
Commuters at the stop Wednesday said the incident prompted them to take more precautions with their valuables.
"There really needs to be more security because I've witnessed assaults, and it just makes me very terrified," said Marcia Sinclair.
Police say a man snatched a woman's iPhone on the "L" platform Monday, then made his getaway. While he was running, he bumped into several people on the stairwell, including Katona-King.
Katona-King fell and, according to police, died Tuesday from her head injury.
Authorities were searching for the suspect Wednesday hoping surveillance video from the area would help. They were also seeking information from witnesses."Beyond this being very sad, it's scary just having to go to this 'L' stop every day. I come to work early, and it's often in the dark, and I don't want the same thing to happen to somebody else," said commuter Fred Gingerich.
"I'm even being cautious. I tell my friends to be careful, watch yourself. You can't really trust anyone," said Kelvin Pitts, also a commuter.
Katona-King's family is grief-stricken, saying she was a wonderful woman who dedicated herself to the church.
The CTA has warned riders for months over the increasing number of iPhone and iPod robberies at CTA platforms and their stations. Some riders have been listening. Others say they are going to start to listen.
"I don't take my phone out like that anymore, especially when it is late in the evening," said Juan Jimenez, CTA rider.
"I try to keep all my stuff in my pocket wrapped up," said Sinclair.
Katona-King was well-known to CTA employees at the Fullerton "L" stop. The lifelong Chicagoan chose public transportation over driving.
The victim's faith became a big part of her life after her second husband was murdered and after her 2-year-old grandson died in a fire.
Katona-King raised three children as a single mother and led a volunteer effort to feed the homeless at a church in Logan Square. She also worked as a bishop's assistant in Lincoln Park. She took the train every day and was on her way home from work when she was knocked over and fell.
"Everyone should be the way my mom is. I mean, it's just common courtesy. If you have respect for one another, we wouldn't be stealing iPhones," said son David King.
Police are hoping surveillance video will help identify the suspect, but so far they say nothing has captured his image. The CTA only has one camera at the Fullerton stop that is located near the turnstyle.
Police say several witnesses are cooperating with the investigation and that the suspect was last seen running east on Fullerton Monday. Authorities also say they do not have a very good suspect description, but they do believe he was wearing a dark jacket with the letters "WS" on the back.
Katona-King's wake will be on Friday evening and her funeral will take place Saturday. On Sunday morning, her church will hold a dedication service.