Guilty plea in Flossmoor downtown shooting ends case against man

Nearly two years after a shooting in downtown Flossmoor electrified the community, an Indiana man has pleaded guilty to a hate crime and reckless discharge of a firearm, both felonies.
 
Bryan Oedzes made the guilty plea Thursday in the Markham courthouse, said Tandra Simonton, a spokeswoman for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office.
 
Oedzes. 46, of Dyer, Ind., was accused of firing a shot toward a man who was walking through downtown Flossmoor at 11:30 p.m. on Aug.22, 2016. In court on Thursday, Oedzes apologized to the shooting victim, who was present, Simonton said.
 
Cook County Circuit Court Judge Geraldine D’Souza sentenced Oedzes to two years probation and 200 hours of community service, Simonton said. He will also have to complete a course in diversity training, she said.
 
According to the Flossmoor Police Department, a jury had been chosen for the trial, which was to begin on Thursday.
 
Oedzes was an employee of Angelo’s Fresh Market in downtown Flossmoor. The business has since closed.
 
According to Flossmoor police, the shooting took place in the late evening hours when two men encountered each other on a downtown street.
 
The victim had just gotten off the train at the Flossmoor Metra station and was walking south on the west side of Sterling Avenue, a police report said. The victim told police that a man who was standing on the sidewalk swore at him and told him, “You don’t belong here,” using a racial slur.
 
According to the report, the man then took a handgun from his bag and pointed it at the victim, who is African American. The victim said he fell to the ground and pleaded with the man not to shoot him. Then he got up with his hands up and started walking across the street toward the area where the Flossmoor Station caboose is located. While he was walking, the man fired a shot in his direction, police said.
 
The victim ran to the east side of Flossmoor Station and pounded on the restaurant windows. Employees let him into the building and he asked them to call the police.
 
Police said the victim positively identified Oedzes as the man with the gun. Police interviewed other witnesses and obtained evidence, including a shell casing that was found along Sterling Avenue.
 
After he was charged with the crimes, Oedzes provided his version of the incident to the Homewood-Flossmoor Chronicle.
 
He said a witness has already given a statement that a racial slur was not uttered, and that "the other person was acting in a strange and threatening manner." Oedzes said the "other person involved” was intoxicated.
 
Oedzes said he fired a “warning shot” to protect himself from the other man.
 
Much of the shooting incident was recorded on video cameras in the downtown area. Police said the video footage corroborated the victim’s story.
 
Immediately before the incident, videos showed Oedzes and a companion drinking on the Flossmoor Station patio. Right before the shooting, videos showed them crossing the street to Angelo’s Fresh Market. Police said the video footage showed the encounter between the two men, the victim dropping to the ground, crossing the street with his hands up and the muzzle flash from the gun.
 
The victim was not injured in the incident. Oedzes was charged with the crimes on Aug. 30, 2016.
 
The incident prompted a strong reaction in the Flossmoor community, with an intense barrage against Oedzes on social media. The H-F Chronicle’s report on the crime had more than 30,000 online page views, making it one of the most-read stories since the newspaper was started in 2014.
 
The shooting received national attention on Sep. 10, 2016, when the Washington Post ran a story on the incident. It was titled “This white man says he faced a ‘serious threat.’ Police say he committed a hate crime.”
 

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