SYCAMORE - DeKalb police have arrested a Montgomery man wanted for over a year in the shooting death of a father gunned down in front of his children at a FasMart in DeKalb on July 4, 2020.
Esaiah M. Escamilla, of the first block of Circle Court in Montgomery, is charged with 19 criminal counts, including first-degree murder, in the shooting death of 29-year-old Chrishun Keeler-Tyus, who died after he was shot following a verbal argument with a husband and wife duo at the gas station on July 4. Police said Keeler-Tyus’s young children were in the car at the time he was shot.
Escamilla was charged in the Fourth of July shooting on July 24, 2020 and a DeKalb County warrant was issued for his arrest, though he had evaded police capture until now. Officials with the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s office said Escamilla was arrested in California near San Diego recently and extradited to Illinois.
Sycamore-based attorney Brian Erwin, who’s representing Escamilla in DeKalb County courts, said Escamilla is from Illinois and was arrested around Aug. 11, though the details surrounding his California arrest and extradition aren’t known.
According to DeKalb County court records, Escamilla is also facing charges after police say he shot Keeler-Tyus’ girlfriend, who was with him at the time. She was injured by gunfire.
Escamilla is facing charges of: first degree murder, a Class M felony; attempted first degree murder, a Class X felony; aggravated battery, a Class X felony; criminal damage to property, a Class 4 felony; unlawful possession of a weapon by a felony, a Class 3 felony; aggravated discharge of a firearm, a Class 1 felony; mob action, a Class 4 felony; and armed violence, a Class X felony.
If convicted of the most serious crime, first degree murder, Escamilla faces life imprisonment.
During a virtual bond hearing from the DeKalb County Jail, Escamilla appeared before DeKalb County Circuit Court Judge Marcy Buick on the charges Monday. In alignment with the request from the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s Office, Buick ordered Escamilla be held on no bond until at least Thursday, during which he’s expected to appear again for a second hearing.
During Thursday’s hearing, set for 10 a.m. on Sept. 23, a DeKalb County Judge will deliberate whether to continue to hold Escamilla with no bond.
“Obviously my client is innocent,” Erwin said Monday. “It’s the state’s burden to prove him beyond any of these charges. My client’s innocent and we intend to show his innocence.”
The latest arrest marks the fifth arrest in connection to the fatal shooting at FasMart in DeKalb on July 4, 2020, and the fourth person to be charged with murder.
Police say the fatal shooting happened after a woman got into an argument with Keeler-Tyus at the gas pump, called her husband, who then called several other family members, including allegedly Escamilla, who arrived at the gas station and shot Keeler-Tyus and his girlfriend while young children watched in the car.
Fatal Fourth of July, 2020
According to DeKalb County court records, around 2 p.m. on the Fourth of July, 2020, Keeler-Tyus and Katrina L. Edwards, 35, got into a disagreement in the parking lot of a FasMart gas station, 933 S. Fourth St. in DeKalb. Minutes later, prosecutors say Katrina Edwards called her husband, Jimmy Edwards, who got in contact with his brother, Emanuel Edwards, and their mother, Annette Romano.
Not long after, the Edwards family showed up in a car and Keeler-Tyus was shot dead while his three children were watching in their car nearby. The victim’s eldest, a 5-year-old “reported seeing his daddy shot,” according to police reports.
Prosecutors and police believe a fifth person, Esaiah Escamilla, pulled the trigger. Escamilla is charged with first-degree murder and police said he pulled the trigger from a black Dodge Avenger owned by Romano, 49, of DeKalb, charged with obstructing justice. According to DeKalb police, Escamilla has ties to Aurora, Plano and Montgomery. Escamilla is not yet in custody, although a warrant has been issued for his arrest.
Jimmy, Katrina and Emmanuel Edwards are all charged with murder.
The act of family violence occured midday and the court proceedings remain ongoing, as investigators looked to piece together what led to the brutal daylight shooting, which also injured Keeler-Tyus’ girlfriend, as the pair was headed to the beach for a holiday outing with the children.
Trials stalled amid pandemic
The Edwards have appeared before now retired DeKalb County Circuit Court Judge Robbin Stuckert on status hearings for each of their cases multiple times together, though court proceedings in 2020 and onwards remained stalled due to the pandemic.
Jimmy and Katrina Edwards’ cases have been reassigned to DeKalb County Circuit Court Judge Phillip Montgomery, records show, and both cases are scheduled to go to a jury trial on Jan. 20, 2022. Both husband and wife are represented by Geneva-based attorney Ken Johnson.
Jimmy Edwards is being held on a $1 million bond at the DeKalb County Jail, with a status hearing set for Sept. 28 at 9:30 a.m. He would have to post 10%, or $100,000 to get out of jail.
Jimmy’s wife, Katrina Edwards is being held on a $750,000 bond at the DeKalb County Jail, after a failed motion to reduce her bond was denied on April 14, 2021, records show. She would have to post 10%, or $75,000 to get out of jail.
Their brother, Emanuel Edwards, is being held on no bond at the DeKalb County Jail, and is scheduled to appear for a status hearing on his charges on Oct. 13 at 3:30 p.m. in courtroom 220, records show. He’s being represented by DeKalb County public defender Robert McCulloch. Emanuel Edwards’ case was set to go to a jury trial in October of 2020 but was postponed, and since Stuckert retired has not been assigned to another judge yet.
This story was updated at 4:15 p.m. Monday, Sept. 20 with additional comment from Escamilla’s lawyer, Brian Erwin, and additional court information on the Edwardses.
Kelsey Rettke is the editor of the Daily Chronicle, part of Shaw Media and DeKalb County's only daily newspaper devoted to local news, crime and courts, government, business, sports and community coverage. Kelsey also covers breaking news for Shaw Media Local News Network.