ROCKFORD – A Springfield man accused of killing a federal task force member last week made his first appearance in a usually quiet courtroom that Monday afternoon was packed with law enforcement and media.
Floyd E. Brown, 39, faces one count of murder, a crime that’s eligible for the federal death penalty. Dressed in a light blue paper hospital gown, Brown wore a cast on his left leg, bandages on both arms and sported a back brace as he hunched in his chair.
“This is a capital case. The possible penalty is death,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Iain D. Johnston told Brown during his appearance at the U.S. District Courthouse in Rockford.
McHenry County Sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Keltner was shot in the head Thursday morning in the parking lot of the Extended Stay America hotel.
Security was tight at the federal courthouse for this high-profile case. Before the hearing, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security agent checked inside the courthouse while a Rockford police dog, Reno, checked the grounds outside.
Because Brown was charged by a criminal complaint, he did not enter a plea Monday afternoon. Plea deals are reserved for after an indictment is handed down.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Talia Bucci sought detention for Brown, saying he was a risk for flight and a “danger to the community.” Brown’s defense attorney, Paul Gaziano, who is the Rockford branch chief for the Federal Public Defender’s Office, did not object to Brown being detained.
Johnston set Brown’s preliminary hearing for March 20, saying a second, capital-certified defense attorney can be appointed after indictment. If a grand jury indicts Brown by then, the hearing will turn into Brown’s arraignment, where he enters his initial plea.
It is unknown in which jail Brown will be housed. Gaziano asked that he be notified when a placement is determined.
Brown’s half-sister, Christina Brown, 37, of Decatur, said she hadn’t seen her brother since before Christmas and was shocked by these allegations. To Keltner’s family, she said, “My heart honestly, truly goes out to all of them.”
Knowing her brother could face the death penalty scares her, she said.
“I love him, and I’m going to be here for him through all of this, and he’s not alone,” she said after the hearing.
Christina Brown said she didn’t know why her brother was in Rockford last week.
A woman authorities have said was Floyd Brown’s girlfriend also was injured before he fled the hotel and was captured downstate.
Christina Brown said her brother “was married at some point,” but she didn’t know who this woman was.
Her brother worked to rebuild car motors and transmissions, she said of the father of six.
“He’s a great father to all of his kids,” she said, adding that the children range in age from 21 to 5.
Keltner, a five-year member of the U.S. Marshals Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force and a nearly 13-year veteran of the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office, was part of the team trying to serve arrest warrants for Brown at the hotel.
Investigators have said Brown shot through the hotel door, jumped out of the third-story window and encountered Keltner in the parking lot before Brown fled and subsequently was arrested downstate.
Nationwide, Keltner’s death marked the 24th law enforcement fatality in the line of duty this year, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. By this time last year, there had been 30 law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty across the nation.
Guns have been involved in 13 of the officers’ deaths this year, compared with 17 of the 30 officers’ deaths by this time last year.
In 2018, 144 officers died nationwide. Of those, 52 officers’ deaths were gun-related. Handguns were the leading cause of officers’ deaths last year, according to the memorial fund.
Winnebago County and federal prosecutors both have charged Brown in Keltner’s death. Brown currently faces one count of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder in Keltner’s shooting in Winnebago County.
No court date has been set for Brown to appear in bond court in Winnebago County, court records show.