Dakotah Earley shooting: Man, 19, charged in Lincoln Park ambush caught on video

Chicago Police have charged a 19-year-old Oak Park man for a vicious armed robbery and shooting in Lincoln Park earlier this month that nearly killed a culinary arts student from Atlanta.

Police say Tyshon Brownlee is part of a crew that could be responsible for more than 20 armed robberies on the city’s North Side.

"We have five innocent victims and a community that has been terrorized," said Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx at a news conference announcing the charges. "This is simply unacceptable."

Brownlee was charged in the shooting and in four other robberies in the area over a span of two days.

Brownlee was charged with four counts of armed robbery with a firearm, armed robbery with the discharge of a firearm, and attempted first-degree murder.


Prosecutors say Brownlee confessed to the crime spree when taken into custody at his Oak Park home on Sunday. Brownlee is charged with four counts of armed robbery and one count of attempted first-degree murder for an attack captured on surveillance video.

Police say Brownlee confronted 23-year-old Dakotah Earley with a gun on May 6 near the Depaul campus in the 1300 block of West Webster Avenue. Brownlee allegedly took Earley's cellphone and got into a struggle with the victim. Brownlee then shot Earley three times, twice in the back and once in the neck, police said.

"Defendant Brownlee then took the handgun, pointed it at victim five and shot him," said Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy, reading from a proffer outside bond court "Defendant then paused and shot victim five again while victim five was lying on the ground."

Earley was initially put on life support but has progressed in his recovery and is now breathing on his own, according to an update on his GoFundMe page.

Police said it turns out that Brownlee was shot himself just four days after he shot Earley. It happened near "The Bean" in Millennium Park. But police said Brownlee hustled out of Stroger hospital when it became clear detectives were closing in on him for the robbery spree.

"We immediately went back to the hospital. He had left the hospital as quickly as possible, probably understanding what was happening as well," said CPD Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan.

Police believe Brownley and his crew may be responsible for more than two dozen armed robberies this month in Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Uptown and Edgewater.

Brownlee was identified after detective spent countless hours studying surveillance video.

"We’re still working to identify and apprehend anyone else involved in the shooting and robbery pattern," said Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown.

Earley remains hospitalized at Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Lakeview. Part of his left leg was amputated because of the shooting, but family members say he is expected to survive.

A Cook County judge ordered Brownlee held without bail Tuesday. His next court appearance is scheduled for May 25 in Skokie.

"I want to thank the Chicago Police Department and Area Detectives for their hard work on this case, and to all of the neighbors who assisted in gathering evidence on these crimes," Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) said in a letter to constituents. "Residents have been extraordinarily helpful in providing their surveillance videos and key evidence to assist the detectives in this ongoing investigation."

"In those attacks, offenders wearing ski masks were driving stolen cars around residential neighborhoods in the overnight hours, looking for unsuspecting people walking alone or in small groups," Hopkins said. "They would then jump suddenly from the vehicle with guns drawn to rob their terrified victims of phones, purses, and wallets."

Deenihan noted that robbery crews in Chicago often "become more violent as they go along," though he couldn’t say exactly why Earley was shot when the other victims were not.

"For this specific case, you could almost hear on the video, he takes the victim’s phone, then he starts asking for the passcode," Deenihan said.

"And so I can’t tell you specifically is that the reason. You know, obviously, the victim in this case, you know, fought back … You guys can see on the video, his initial instincts are to fight back and then immediately it leads to the shooting."

At a news conference announcing the charges, Police Supt. Brown stressed the importance of private security cameras, noting that footage of the shooting helped lead to the arrest.

"They help us solve crimes faster," Brown said. "But more importantly, they help us bring violent offenders off our streets to justice.

"We will not tolerate violence in this city," the superintendent added. "Too many precious lives are being hurt or taken away because of a sheer disregard for human life, and that is unacceptable."

Earley moved to Chicago just six months ago after finishing culinary arts school in Maryland. He lives in Lincoln Park with roommates.

Earley's mother, Joy Dobbs, said her son often has trouble sleeping and when he does, he sometimes takes a walk around the block or goes to a local convenience store.

She believes that's why he was out at 3 a.m. – a walk that's now forever changed their lives.

"It has broken my heart to see my baby like this and what they did to him," said Dobbs. "People have been so generous and just total strangers praying for him. I read one of the messages on the GoFundMe and she said that, ‘Dakotah, all of Chicago is pulling for you,’ and that really touched me."

Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.