An off-duty Chicago police officer who was shot early Monday during a robbery in the Washington Heights neighborhood on the Far South Side is lucky he’s alive, according to his boss.
The 49-year-old officer had recently finished a shift with the gang enforcement unit and parked his personal vehicle in the 10100 block of South Green Street about 2:20 a.m. when two male assailants walked up to his car, one on each side. The officer generally works in plainclothes, so he was not in uniform at the time, police said.
A source said the officer was coming from a Starbucks where he had been studying for an upcoming detectives exam. When the robbers approached him, he tried to hide the police test prep book on his seat and cover his police star and gun.
“He didn’t notice them until literally they were at the car and obviously he knew something was up right away,” Interim Chicago Police Supt. John Escalante said Monday morning.
“He tried to comply with the robbery request: ‘Take my money, my phone,’ ” said Escalante, noting that at least one gun was trained on the officer.
“They’re patting him down and he was fearful they’d find his weapon, and at one point, one of the subjects said, ‘Shoot him,’ ” Escalante said.
“He was able to roll out of the way and draw his weapon,” Escalante said.
In an exchange of gunfire, the officer was shot once in his right leg.
The officer thought at least one of the bullets he fired struck one of the robbers — information he relayed to 911 personnel moments after the two assailants fled on foot.
A short time later, officers located a male seeking treatment for a gunshot wound at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park, about 3 miles from where the robbery occurred.
Police were questioning him Monday morning as a person of interest because of the “timing and location,” Escalante said.
The wounded officer was “awake and alert and in pretty good spirits” Monday morning, Escalante said. “But I think it was slowly beginning to dawn on him how close he was to losing his own life.”
“Had it not been an off-duty police officer, we might have ended up with a murder victim,” he said.
The officer, who is single, was expected to be released from Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn by Tuesday, or even possibly later Monday.