CBS Atlanta affiliate’s rental car keys stolen outside R. Kelly’s studio

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A man knocks Wednesday afternoon on the door of the Near West Side warehouse rented by singer R. Kelly. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Someone stole the keys to a CBS Atlanta affiliate rental car late Sunday outside R. Kelly’s Near West Side studio, in an alleged crime that one of its reporters said may have been retaliation for the station’s investigative work into the fallen R&B singer.

Jonathan Carlson, chief investigative reporter for CBS 46, said toward the end of Sunday night, he and a photographer saw who they believed to be Kelly — surrounded by an entourage — exiting the warehouse space at 219 N. Justine St.

As the two jumped out of their rental car and began filming the figure darting out, a male slipped out of a black sport utility vehicle nearby and stole the rental car’s keys from the ignition, Carlson said. The reporter tried to chase after him, but the male made it back inside the black SUV and sped away.

The entire incident unfolded in “a split second,” Carlson said in a phone interview.

“We had to quickly step out of our car to capture a news event unfolding,” Carlson said. “It was a chaotic scene outside the studio, and in the midst of that chaos we became the victim of a crime.”

Chicago police confirmed at 11:50 p.m., a male got out of a black SUV and stole the keys from a 2018 Chevy Malibu in the 200 block of North Justine. The SUV fled south on Justine Street, police said.

Carlson said he does not know whether the male suspect, who he remembers wore a heavy coat, was part of the crowd inside Kelly’s studio, but he witnessed the same vehicle drop off a woman at the building earlier that evening.

“I think it’s fair to say he was associated with what was going on at the studio, but whether he was inside, I don’t know,” he said.

The reporter said he and the photographer were not injured, and nothing else seemed to be missing from the Malibu.

CBS’s Atlanta affiliate was staking the studio as part of an investigative piece on Kelly, who has been the subject of fierce scrutiny since a Lifetime documentary aired earlier this year and laid out decades of sexual misconduct allegations against him, many of which involve underage girls.

“I do think we were targeted because we were there seeking the truth about R. Kelly,” Carlson said. “The people inside studio were aware of who we were.”

Carlson said the full investigative segment is slated to air Monday night on CBS 46.

Chicago police declined to comment further on the theft and said no one is in custody.

Kelly’s Near West Side studio has been the subject of a months-long battle between the singer and city officials, who found dozens of building code violations there last month.

Most recently, a Cook County judge ruled last week that Kelly could only use the warehouse space between the hours of 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., following a city inspection that contended the building was being improperly used as a residence.

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