A Chicago man who had been accused of throwing a fire extinguisher off an Elgin parking garage, striking and killing a homeless man, has been acquitted of first-degree murder charges.
A Kane County jury deliberated more than two hours before returning not guilty verdicts late Monday in the trial of Yancarlo Garcia, according to prosecutors, who said jurors also acquitted Garcia on a charge of involuntary manslaughter.
Garcia, 24, of the 1100 block of North Lawndale Avenue, had been charged in the death of Richard Gibbons, a 61-year-old homeless man. Gibbons was struck by the 15-pound extinguisher around 1:30 a.m. on Aug. 11, 2011 and died about three weeks later.
The extinguisher struck Gibbons in the abdomen, and the force of the impact broke his pelvic bone and badly bruised his colon. He later developed sepsis while hospitalized.
According to authorities, Garcia, his brother and two women had been drinking and partying together and were atop the five-story parking garage in the 200 block of Fulton Street in Elgin. They saw the homeless man sleeping below in an alleyway and began taunting him.
The group had reportedly thrown some smaller items at Gibbons. Garcia's brother removed a fire extinguisher from the garage wall and was attempting to spray Gibbons, but he was unable to operate the device. At that point, Garcia allegedly took the extinguisher and tossed it off the parking deck.
Gibbons was calling Elgin police to complain about the harassment when the extinguisher struck him, prosecutors said.
Kane County Public Defender Kelli Childress argued in her opening statement last week that Garcia was trying only to startle Gibbons when he threw the extinguisher. Garcia's actions were terrible, she argued, but they did not amount to murder. Childress also argued the homeless man's poor health and chronic alcoholism may have contributed to the sepsis.
Garcia had been held in the Kane County jail since September 2011, when he was charged following Gibbons' death.