UPDATED: Oct. 13, 2010 9:33 p.m.
JOLIET, Ill (CBS/WBBM) – Prosecutors on Wednesday dropped murder charges against Lynwood police officer Brian Dorian, who had been arrested last week as the suspect in a bi-state shooting spree.
After the hearing, family and supporters of Dorian hugged each other. “It was emotional,” said one of Dorian’s fellow Lynwood police officers.
As he arrived in court, Dorian simply said, “Thank you, thank you,” when asked what he had to say to the large group of family and friends who had insisted upon his innocence.
Dorian’s mother, Diane Dorian, said the most important task now is to “find the person that’s out there that has done this before he kills again.” She said “no comment” when asked if she would take any action against the Will County State’s Attorney’s office.
Dorian had pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder earlier Tuesday. Prosecutors had alleged he was the man who shot Rolando Alonso, 45, last week.
Police have said the man who shot and killed Alonso at a construction site in rural Beecher in Will County also shot and critically wounded 19-year-old Joshua Garza at the scene, and then later shot and injured 62-year-old farmer Keith Dahl in Lowell, Ind.
But just hours after he was arraigned on Tuesday, Dorian was freed after prosecutors said he couldn’t possibly have committed the crime.
LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Bob Roberts Reports
“We received some computer forensic information that places Brian Dorian in his home at the time of the Beecher shootings,” Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow said.
Glasgow said the information rendered it “physically impossible” for Dorian to have committed the crime.
CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole reports that Dorian was able to show police which websites he was visiting on his home computer at the time of the shootings. He could identify keystrokes that were traced to his computer at that time and shopping receipts also placed him away from the crime scene. Finally, one of the wounded victims could not identify the 37-year-old as the gunman.
His attorney says without such proof, his client could possibly still be locked up for a crime he didn’t commit.
Dorian’s attorneys said Wednesday that their client broke down in tears while talking to them after the charges were dropped, telling them he feels sorry for the family of the man who was killed in the shooting spree. Dorian has not eaten since his arrest.
Attorneys also said that new evidence that helped Dorian also included cell phone calls he made during the shooting spree.
But when Dorian was initially charged with the case four days earlier, prosecutors did so based on what appeared at the time to be a mountain of circumstantial evidence.
“If you look at all of the evidence that pointed towards him, it’s uncanny,” Glasgow said Tuesday night.
But Glasgow said when it became clear that they had the wrong man, they had to make it right at the news conference.
“This is a terribly tragic case. I feel horrible that Brian Dorian went through this. I certainly would apologize for any inconvenience that he has suffered,” said Glasgow. “But at the same time, he is a police officer, and if he were in our shoes, and he had a suspect under these circumstances, Brian Dorian would have acted the same way.”
Attorney David Carlson didn’t seem so sure about that when he talked with CBS 2 shortly after his client was cleared.
“It appears that at this time, the only reason they arrested him was because of an identification of one witness,” Carlson said.
And defense attorney Bob O’Dekirk said there was a “rush to judgment” in arresting his client.
“I don’t think charges there’s any way should have been brought two days into this matter,” O’Dekirk said.
On Wednesday morning, State’s Attorney’s office spokesman Chuck Pelkie said this was not true.
“The charges were filed, and the arrest was made based upon all of the evidence that was available to the sheriff’s department at the time,” Pelkie said. “Law enforcement from any agency would have felt compelled to make the arrest based on all the information that the State’s Attorney’s office and that the Will County Sheriff’s Department had at the time.”
The information included both photo and live lineup identification, the identification of the van Dorian was driving, and data gathered on cell phone calls he made, Pelkie said.
Carlson says his client is thankful that his nightmare is over, but is concerned that there is a killer on the loose.
“As a police officer, he feels that if he can do something to help, he will,” Carlson said.
Carlson adds that he believes this case should serve as a warning to prosecutors everywhere.
“We have to do the job. We have to thoroughly investigate before we change and/or ruin people’s lives,” he said.
On Wednesday morning Carlson gave Glasgow credit for proclaiming Dorian innocent.
“We’re in agreement with Jim on one thing – Jim being Jim Glasgow, the State’s Attorney – Brian Dorian had nothing to do with this crime, and Jim, I think, was unequivocal last night in saying that,” he said.
Lynwood Police Officer Greg Szymanski said that Dorian’s colleagues were hurt when they saw him shown in such a negative light after his arrest.
Lynwood police officers struggled to believe Dorian could be a killer. Fortunately, calls from the public gave them reason to hope otherwise.
“Probably one of the things that helped us through this was, while Brian Dorian was in custody, the public was still coming in with information. The public themselves would tell us ‘We don’t believe your police officer did this,’” Szymanski said.
On Wednesday night, dozens of his friends and family members went to a Lynwood sports bar to celebrate Dorian’s freedom.
Christi Maish says Dorian coached her son in baseball and knew all along he was innocent. She cried when she heard he’d been released. And former police colleague Lori Niedziela says she stood behind him all they way.
Dorian, though, isn’t talking. Sgt. Tim Smith of the Lynwood Police Department says he’s too traumatized by what happened, after spending almost five days in jail.
Now, the search for the killer is again a top priority. Investigators in both Will County and Lake County, Ind. say Dorian’s arrest didn’t slow them down. But Dorian’s friends say time was wasted.
And Sgt. Smith says even those at Dorian’s gathering tonight are not taking the case lightly. They know a killer is out there and Smith says there wasn’t a cop at Dorian’s gathering that didn’t want to help find him.
Smith also says Dorian insisted he was innocent from the beginning, even telling detectives about his computer activity and other evidence that would clear him but they didn’t listen.
Will County authorities say that’s not the case. Do they have any new, strong leads? Spokesperson Pat Barry says as of Wednesday afternoon — no.
In spite of charging that the Will County State’s Attorney’s office rushed into a wrongful arrest, Dorian and his attorneys won’t comment on whether they plan to file a lawsuit.
CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov, Mike Puccinelli, Vince Gerasole, and Newsradio 780’s Bob Roberts contributed to this report.