A 15-year-old boy who was wounded by gunfire as police pursued a bank robbery suspect at a Northwest Side music school Tuesday was shot by an officer from Des Plaines, Chicago police said.
The Des Plaines officer was at the scene because the bank robbery had occurred in the northwest suburb earlier in the day.
The Des Plaines officer’s pursuit of the suspect into the music school and ultimately opening fire was the right decision, despite the teen boy’s injuries, CPD First Deputy Supt. Anthony Riccio said Wednesday.
“They have every right to be there and pursue him and to take him into custody,” Riccio said. “And certainly, when he started firing at police officers, they had every right to return fire....There’s no question in my mind that the Des Plaines officer acted properly.”
Riccio also told reporters the conditions of the boy, a student at Lane Tech High School, and a CPD officer wounded in the incident, have improved.
The boy remained at Lurie Children’s Hospital. The officer, 46, was at Illinois Masonic Medical Center. Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the officer was in good spirits Wednesday even though his wound was from a bullet that entered and exited his skull.
The 17-year Chicago police veteran, who was listed in serious-but-stable condition, was able to speak with Mayor Lori Lightfoot during a visit, Guglielmi said.
Riccio said “there’s been a marked improvement in his condition overnight,” with the officer’s brain bleeding having subsided.
“We’re optimistic that he’s going to make a full recovery,” Riccio said.
An email sent Wednesday from administrators to parents at Lane Tech read: “It is with heavy hearts that we inform you that a current Lane Tech student was the innocent victim of a shooting incident yesterday. He is in critical condition, but we cannot release the name at this time. We ask that the Lane community keep this family in our hearts.”
The boy, a sophomore, was working as a student-intern at Upbeat Music and Arts when the robbery suspect, who’d just shot the Chicago police officer, ran into the building at 4318 W. Irving Park Road.
The robbery suspect was also shot and killed in the music school. The Cook County medical examiner’s office identified him Wednesday as Christopher Terrell Willis, 32, of the 6000 block of South Rhodes Avenue in Chicago.
Willis had a few run-ins with the law on the South Side in the months leading up to the chaotic shooting Tuesday, records show. He was arrested and charged with obstructing an officer in May, domestic battery in July and trespassing in September, according to police arrest records.
Willis also pleaded guilty to forgery in a 2013 case and was sentenced to 30 months in prison, court records show.
The front door to the music school is normally unlocked by buzzer by a receptionist, according to Tracy Baldwin, who had kids who attend the school but were not there during the shooting.
Willis rushed past someone as the door was briefly open, according to police.
Baldwin, who said class was in session at the time, said a video shot by a bystander and posted to social media by a local television station showed police entering the front door of the music school. At nearly the same time, the video shows, a music instructor opening a side door a few feet away with his hands up. Others from inside the school also quickly exited.
Baldwin shuddered to think what other nearby doors the gunman might have tried to get into had he not been able to enter the music school.
A popular Irish bar and restaurant, a building that houses foster children for the state’s Department of Children and Family Services and a busy YMCA were all steps away, Baldwin noted.
“It’s horrifying to think about,” she said.
The dead robbery suspect was part of a two-man team — an armed robber and a getaway driver — that robbed a Bank of America located at 1300 E. Oakton St., Des Plaines, according to a news release from the Des Plaines Police Department.
Des Plaines police officers located the vehicle in an alley about a half mile from the bank and the men fled on foot. One of the suspects was quickly arrested. Willis escaped and allegedly carjacked a Buick that officers spotted and chased at high speeds onto the nearby Kennedy Expressway.
Authorities were aided in the pursuit by a tracking device a bank teller concealed in the money handed over during the robbery, police said.
Chicago police officers were waiting for Willis when he exited the Kennedy at Irving Park Road.
“Upon seeing CPD, the offender fired at the vehicles,” striking the officer, who has received more than 100 departmental awards, Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said Tuesday.
The suspect crashed his vehicle before running into the music school, police said.
A Des Plaines officer gave chase and, once the two were inside, Riccio said, Willis pointed his gun at the officer, who then fatally shot Willis and wounded the boy.
Riccio added that, there was “no indication that, inside the music store, that the 32-year-old suspect was able to get off a shot.”
No shots were fired by Chicago police officers throughout the pursuit.
In an email sent to parents Tuesday, Scott Barbeau, the executive director of the music school, said the injured boy’s condition had stabilized.
“All other teachers and students were physically safe, thanks to the quick and courageous efforts of our teachers,” he said.
Lightfoot opened Wednesday’s City Council meeting by asking aldermen to say a prayer for the wounded police officer and teenager. She also visited with the officer and the teen’s parents on Wednesday.
“It’s a devastating thing when we have something like this happen. We can’t treat it as just business as usual — because it’s not,” the mayor said.
Contributing: Mitchell Armentrout, Fran Spielman