Police: No foul play apparent in death of man on fire in Oak Lawn
By Susan DeMar Lafferty firstname.lastname@example.org April 3, 2013 7:08PM
There were no indications of foul play in the death of a homeless man whom witnesses tried to help as he was engulfed in flames Tuesday night near a vacant retail area in Oak Lawn, police said Wednesday.
The man was identified as James D. Brewer, 49, of an unknown address, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
Brewer had been sleeping in a makeshift shelter near trash bins by a vacant business in the 9900 block of Southwest Highway, police said. Witnesses driving by saw him on fire in front of the retail area about 9:30 p.m. and stopped to try to extinguish the flames, Oak Lawn Police Division Chief Mike Kaufmann said.
The Oak Lawn 911 center received a call about the incident at 9:31 p.m., police said. A Burbank ambulance was nearby and was the first unit on the scene, and Burbank paramedics put out the flames and determined Brewer had died, police said.
Oak Lawn police still are investigating how the fire started. Brewer’s shelter was surrounded by a brick wall and corrugated sheet metal, which may have helped contain the fire, police said.
Brewer apparently had been living there “for at least a few days, if not longer,” Kaufmann said.
An autopsy Wednesday was inconclusive pending the police investigation and toxicology tests, according to the medical examiner’s office.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Oak Lawn police at (708) 422-8292.