Cross-country odyssey brought NYPD SWAT suspect to Chicago

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A 21-year old man who police say was at Union Station with a loaded gun and stolen NYPD tactical gear, had gone missing in February from his family's California home the ABC7 I-Team has learned.

Isaiah Malailua was arrested last Friday when bomb-sniffing dogs detected explosive residue in a bag he was carrying. The bag contained New York City police equipment that had been stolen earlier in the week from a police car in Manhattan during a smash-and-grab incident.

At the time of his arrest in Chicago's busiest train station, Malailua was wearing body armor and carrying a loaded 9mm pistol, authorities said.

The I-Team learned on Friday that he was at the tail end of a coast-to-cast trip by planes, trains and motor vehicles.

He had been reported missing on February 22 after telling family members in Redding, California that he was going to take a train to San Francisco. He never arrived.

According to a California missing person's help-group "Nor-Cal Alliance for the Missing," Malailua had actually boarded a train the other direction and got off in Los Angeles.

He was then tracked to New Mexico and continued on to Chicago in late February. It is not known why he traveled to Chicago at that time.

Then, according to the Nor-Cal timeline, Malailua "caught a flight" to Florida. As the I-Team reported this week-he was arrested in Miami on March 3 for violating park ordinances.

On March 15 he is said to he been traced to Savannah, Georgia-by the use of a personal debit card. He then continued northbound.

And on March 22, the New York SWAT theft occurred.

Three days later, March 25, he was in Chicago and arrested on weapons charges at Union Station, allegedly carrying the bag of police tactical gear from New York.

Malailua appeared in a Chicago courtroom on Friday where a judge said he could expect to be indicted.

"I haven't talked to him about 10, 12 years" said his grandmother on Friday outside court. Terri Malailua, who had driven in from Ohio for the court appearance, said that her grandson had been working prior to the cross-country odyssey and arrest.

"He's always been a sweet kid, I mean growing up he was always a sweet kid" she told ABC7. Now after the legal trouble he is in she said that "the rest of his life is like poof!"

A motive for the alleged SWAT theft and why Malailua would have been carrying a loaded gun in a train station, are not apparent according to investigators.

He is being held on $100,000 bond in the Cook County jail.
Copyright © 2020 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.