Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Thursday said the motive for targeting the two undercover police officers who were shot in Back of the Yards on Tuesday night would soon become clear.
Both officers are receiving around-the-clock protection after being ambushed while sitting in an unmarked tactical van. They were conducting a follow-up investigation of a previous gang shooting.
Members of the La Raza street gang are believed to be responsible for shooting the officers — and one of the gunmen was using a .223-caliber rifle, most likely an assault weapon such as an AR-15, law enforcement sources said.
Though police have asked news reporters to refrain from using the officers’ names because of the sensitive nature of their jobs, Emanuel identified one of them by name, as well as his father, a deputy police chief.
“Officer . . . is the son of Deputy Chief . . . ,” Emanuel said. “He and I — I think it was in the 9th District when he first got appointed, was on the bicycle. All three of us did a photo together. I talked to [the father] yesterday just to check in on his son. Both [the deputy chief] and his wife because this also effects them emotionally obviously.”
“I also talked to the other officer to check in on how he’s doing. . . . Their sense of selfless sacrifice on behalf of all of us,” he said. “All of us [should] take some moment not just to put them individually in our prayers, but to thank the men and women that make up the Chicago Police Department for what they do for us every day in protecting us.”
Emanuel was asked whether he is concerned that the “ominous targeting of two [tactical] officers with essentially military weapons” signals a new form of violence on Chicago streets.
“The facts about this case will come out later that . . . actually will address your question,” the mayor replied. “I’m not gonna do that at this point. . . . The case will become fully clear.”
Emanuel was asked again to solve the mystery that has lingered since the shooting. Was the follow-up investigation into an earlier gang shooting compromised? Were the shooters tipped off about where the officers were? Did they suspect they were gang members? Or were they randomly targeted?
“It’s a fair question,” the mayor said. “When you see the conclusion of the case, the answer to that question will be provided. I don’t want to get ahead of it given where the department is right now on tracking down who’s responsible.”
The mayor was asked about the push by four aldermen, all of them former Chicago Police officers, for “drastic measures” to get more police officers trained and certified to use assault weapons for police work. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed revealed the push to give more cops that kind of firepower earlier this week.
“I’m gonna take all the guidance from the superintendent and the leadership of the police department as it relates to that area,” Emanuel said. “As it comes to equipment, what I would note to everybody is what was most important to those officers was their [bullet-resistant] vest.”
The officers were in an unmarked tactical van investigating a prior gang-related shooting of a 15-year-old boy in the Pilsen neighborhood, when their van was riddled with bullets just after 9 p.m. Tuesday near 43rd and Ashland.
Police have been questioning three “persons of interest” and found one of the vehicles they believe was used in the shootings — a Chrysler minivan.