NORTH CENTER — The man who was shoved onto CTA tracks by a stranger in August flagged down fellow passengers for help, shouting, "I think he's trying to kill me."
Victim Ben Benedict, 46, testified Monday during a preliminary hearing at a Cook County branch court near Belmont and Western avenues.
Benedict said he was heading home from a Cubs game Aug. 1 when a stranger pushed him from behind onto the tracks at the Washington Blue Line subway station at 19 N. Dearborn St. about 11:40 p.m.
Though Benedict didn't see who shoved him, he said, he quickly whipped around to see 34-year-old Chad Estep standing above him on the platform, which was otherwise empty at that point.
"I said, 'Dude. What the f---?" Benedict testified, adding that he and Estep had never met or spoken before that moment. "He looked down and pointed straight at me."
Benedict said his right wrist was sprained when it "took the brunt of the fall" as he landed on the tracks — just about 12 to 18 inches away from the deadly electrified third rail.
As Benedict tried to hoist himself onto the platform with his left arm, he testified, Estep blocked his efforts.
"I stepped back and said, 'What's your problem?'" Benedict testified.
At that point, according to court testimony, Benedict spotted a group of passengers about 20 feet away on the opposite platform. That's when he began shouting for help, yelling, "I think he's trying to kill me."
Several good Samaritans ran toward Benedict, he said, and were able to pull him back onto the platform.
"It couldn't have been more than 30 seconds or a minute" before a train came, Benedict added.
Benedict said he contacted police and the CTA, which released surveillance stills of the man believed to have pushed Benedict this summer.
Estep, who lives with his wife in Wicker Park, was arrested last week and charged with attempted first-degree murder and aggravated battery in a public place after Benedict identified him in a photo array, according to court testimony.
On Monday, Cook County Judge Marvin Luckman said there was enough evidence to pursue felony charges in the case.
Estep — who received his doctorate in neuroscience from Northwestern University in March and works as a data analyst — is slated to be arraigned Oct. 30 at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, 2650 S. California Ave.
Both Estep and his defense attorney, Vadim Glozman, declined to comment after court.
During the preliminary hearing, Benedict testified he had spent the evening at a Cubs game with friends and was heading home alone when he was attacked. Benedict said he did not drink any alcohol that evening.
A Chicago Police Department detective testified that CTA surveillance cameras captured the attack from five angles. Estep can be seen following Benedict onto the platform, the detective said.
When Glozman asked whether the detective could see the face of the person who shoved Benedict during the attack, the detective said he could "make a comparison" to still photos of Estep entering and leaving the Downtown station.