Senator threatened by man with a gun while driving in Springfield
A Chicago lawmaker says he feared for his life after being threatened with a gun while driving this week in Springfield.
Adding to the trauma and loss of sleep, state Sen. Elgie Sims said Thursday, was the fact that the man who allegedly threatened him Monday night was released from the Sangamon County Jail the next day after posting $15,000 bail.
“By him being released on bail, he’s free to do this again,” Sims said.
Sims was the Senate sponsor of legislation that will eliminate the state’s cash-bail system in two years. The legislation, which Gov. JB Pritzker signed in February, is designed to eliminate what many Democratic lawmakers call a bail system that unfairly benefits people with means and penalizes people for being poor because they often can’t afford to post bail.
Sims, 50, a Democrat, told The State Journal-Register that he thinks the man who threatened him would have been detained and remained behind bars if the court system, as the new law will require, had to perform a more thorough analysis on whether releasing a suspect would pose a risk to public safety.
“I think it’s a perfect example of how cash bail doesn’t make people more safe,” Sims said in a phone interview as the Illinois Senate met in-person in Springfield.
The man arrested after the Monday night incident, Michael L. Hoyle, 54, of New Berlin, was booked into the jail on preliminary charges of unlawful use of a weapon, possession of a firearm despite having a revoked Firearm Owners Identification card, aggravated assault/use of a deadly weapon and possession of ammunition with no valid FOID card.
Sangamon County State’s Attorney Dan Wright said he is awaiting reports from police detectives before making a final decision on charges against Hoyle.
Sims said the incident began about 8:15 p.m. Monday after he left the Stratton Office Building, where he underwent a test for COVID-19 in advance of Senate sessions and committee meetings later in the week.
He said he was westbound on Lawrence Avenue, headed to a home he owns on the city’s west side, and was talking with his wife by phone on a Bluetooth device when his wife told him that she heard a beeping sound in the background.
It turned out that a man later identified as Hoyle was driving behind Sims and was beeping his horn and turning his lights off and on, according to Sims.
“He was riding the horn, then cut in front of me and slammed on his brake on Lawrence a couple blocks before the dip in the road next to Pasfield Golf Course,” Sims said.
“There were a million things going through my mind,” Sims said. “I didn’t know what this was, where he came from, how long he had been behind me, how dangerous he was, and whether he was trying to stop me so other cars could come out.”
Sims said he slammed on his brakes to avoid hitting the rear of the Chevy pickup truck Hoyle was driving, then hung up on his wife and called “911.” Sims, a lawyer, also took a picture with his phone of the Chevy’s license plate.
The pickup pulled to the right side of the road and Sims, while still on the phone with a 911 operator, said he pulled up along Hoyle’s left side, rolled down his window, made eye contact with Hoyle and said, “‘I’m on the phone with 911 and so I want you to know the police are on their way.’ That’s when he pulls out a handgun and points the gun at me and says, ‘Let’s go.’”
Sims said he thought to himself, “‘Let’s go? Oh my god.’”
Sims said he pressed the accelerator on his SUV and headed west on Lawrence to get away from Hoyle, then turned left, or south, onto Chatham Road on the city’s west side.
Sims said he made a U-turn to turn around and double-check a street sign to inform the 911 operator of his location. Sims said he then noticed that Hoyle, who had proceeded west on Lawrence — just past the intersection — turned back onto Chatham’s southbound lanes.
“He turned around and started chasing me again,” Sims said.
Sims said he made a U-turn so he could flee Hoyle. As Sims was driving south on Chatham, he said he saw Hoyle hold the gun outside the car but not fire the weapon.
Sims said Hoyle turned west onto Old Jacksonville Road, and Sims proceeded to the parking lot of Schnucks supermarket on Montvale Drive, as directed by the 911 operator, to meet with a Jerome police officer.
Hoyle was stopped by Springfield police shortly afterward without incident, Springfield Police Deputy Chief Joshua Stuenkel said.
Police were unaware of a motive for Hoyle’s alleged behavior, Stuenkel said.
“At this time, we don’t have any evidence to indicate that the suspect was targeting the victim because of his position,” Stuenkel said.
Hoyle is white and Sims is Black. When asked whether race or Sims’ status as a lawmaker had anything to do with the incident, Sims said he thinks his legislative license plates may have played a role.
“I know that when he got directly behind me and got the clear view of the back of my car — my license plates are clearly displayed — I know that he got more aggressive when he got directly behind my car,” Sims said. “The inference I make is that when he saw those legislative plates, it kicked in for him.”
Sims said he wasn’t hurt but has lost sleep since Monday night. He said he was continuing his legislative duties Thursday in Springfield.
“The trauma does not just extend to me,” he said. “My wife has not slept a full night since this happened. Those traumas are real.”
Sims said he had nothing but praise for the way police handled the incident and treated him with respect and empathy.
Hoyle is listed as president and owner of Kwik-Wall Co., 4650 Industrial Ave., Springfield, a supplier of movable walls and partitions, according to the company’s website. Hoyle’s home address is listed in Illinois secretary of state records, where he is identified as a manager and agent of Kwik Wall Property Management Co., LLC.
Hoyle didn’t return a phone message Thursday.
Contact Dean Olsen: [email protected]; (217) 836-1068; twitter.com/DeanOlsenSJR.