South Side man charged in Blue Line robbery

February 27, 2014 (CHICAGO)

Eric Carney, 22, of the 4800 block of South Chicago Beach Drive, was charged in connection with the robbery that happened about 6:10 a.m. Sunday after a train arrived at the Western Blue Line station at 1909 N. Western Ave., police announced early Thursday.

A 28-year-old woman sitting in the train had just pulled out her cell phone when Carney allegedly boarded the train, grabbed the device and ran off the train before it left the station.

Police issued a community alert on Monday, and Carney was later identified in surveillance photos taken at the station, police said. He was not charged with a second robbery listed in the alert, which happened at the same station on the morning of Jan. 6, police said.

According to court records, Carney's criminal history dates back to 2009. In February 2012, he served one day in prison after he pleaded guilty to selling merchandise on CTA property, records show. His most recent charge was in November 2013, when Carney was charged with simple assault. That case is still ongoing.

Carney faces one felony count of robbery and is scheduled to appear in bond court Thursday.

The Guardian Angels patroled the Western Blue Line stop Wednesday morning.

Carney's alleged victim said she ran after the thief, but was stopped short when she fell. The incident left Gabrielle McCaulley with a broken ankle, and her young daughter with a deeper pain.

"We were just on the couch just crying because she was hurt. And that's the first time seeing my mommy hurt," said Asia Austin, robbery victim's daughter.

McCaulley was alone on the Blue Line headed to her job at a Northwest Side nursing home. She was texting a relative on her new Samsung Galaxy Note 3 smart phone as the doors of the train opened at the Western stop.

"That one second I had that phone out, that's all it took is one second. And he took it," said McCaulley.

McCaulley says she chased the man off the train and down the stairs. Her fingers grasped at the back of his black hoodie when she fell, she said.

"I was yelling like, 'Help! Help! Help! He's taking my stuff!' And I was just yelling really, really loud, 'Help me! Help me! Help me!'" said McCaulley.

"My Auntie Tyra, she told me that something happened to my mommy. And I thought she died. And I didn't want to lose my momma because without my momma I wouldn't be here," said Austin.

Police say it was the second robbery at the Western Blue Line stop this year. A 32-year-old woman was robbed on the train in similar fashion on January 6 around the same hour of the morning. McCaulley has a message for fellow riders.

"I know we're bored on that train sometimes. We want to pull that phone out. Get a book. Read a book. Please don't pull out your device," said McCaulley.

Because of her injury, McCaulley is unable to work for the next six weeks, so she's lost more than just her phone.

Anyone with information should contact Area North detectives at (312) 744-8263.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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