Joggers and brunch-goers went about their day Sunday along a sleepy stretch of the River North neighborhood that hours earlier was the scene of an apparent gang shooting in which four men were injured.
A group of men was standing in a cul-de-sac in the 500 block of West Erie Street about 3:10 a.m. when people in a dark-colored sedan drove by, flashed gang signs and at least one person in the car fired shots, Chicago Police said.
A 20-year-old man was shot in the head and was in critical condition at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, police said Sunday night. Earlier police had said that the man had died.
According to police, an 18-year-old man was shot in his left shoulder and a 19-year-old man was shot in his right foot. Both were taken to Stroger Hospital. Another 20-year-old man went to Northwestern Memorial Hospital with gunshot wounds in his left arm and torso.
Police said all four victims are documented gang members.
Hours later, neighbors walking in the area were surprised to hear of the violence and the possibility that it was tied to a gang fight. But police say the area — a desolate stretch along the Chicago River — has been a known gang hangout in the past.
Humayun Latif rushed to the window of his high-rise apartment next to River North’s A. Montgomery Ward Park when he heard “nine or 10 pops” outside early Sunday.
He saw people running from the alleyway to their cars and speeding off. He said a woman ran to the motionless body of one the men on the ground and began to scream.
“They didn’t look like gang members, just couples out on a Saturday night,” he said.
Latif called police, who arrived in “two or three minutes” but after the shooters had fled.
“We’ve lived here four years and have never seen anything like this,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Dipan Patel heard the shots, too. He has lived in the neighborhood for four years and hasn’t seen such violence.
“It’s a great neighborhood. It’s all young professionals,” he said. “You just never expect something like this to happen.”
The shooting happened in the street, and it’s unclear whether any of the men lived in the area or were visiting.
A police source who worked the Near North District beat, which includes that stretch of River North, said the park and riverwalk area has been a regular overnight hangout in the past for gang members from South and West Side neighborhoods, who flocked to the secluded space with girlfriends to drink and smoke.
Gang members went there to relax without worrying about running into rivals in the quiet park, which is removed from traffic noise and surrounded by high-rises, the source said.
He said police regularly kicked gang members out in the park after hours but he never arrested anyone at the park.
“It isn’t gang territory, it’s just a place where guys go to get away from the neighborhood for a little bit,” the source said. “But if guys from two different factions meet up, they’re going to bump heads.”
Karen Jones, with the River North Residents Association, learned about the shooting Sunday morning. She said the neighborhood hasn’t had gang troubles.
“Absolutely not,” she said. “We’ve never had any problems like that.”
Police were still at the scene at 9:30 a.m., hauling off a bullet-riddled minivan as parents pushing swings played with their children in the park.
“It’s not a gang hangout. Hopefully this doesn’t change that,” said a River North man who also reported the shooting but did not want to disclose his name.
The shooting was part of a violent weekend during which at least three people were killed and and 25 wounded.