Police searching for 1 in ‘random’ River North killing of off-duty Chicago cop

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Chicago Police investigate the scene where an off-duty officer was fatally shot near Huron and Clark. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

A young, off-duty Chicago police officer was killed in an apparently random shooting that also critically wounded one of his friends early Saturday when they returned to their car after a night out on the town in River North.

Detectives were questioning two people of interest in the shooting that left 23-year-old Officer John P. Rivera dead, but police are still searching for at least one more person — possibly the shooter — who remains at large Sunday. Chicago police declined to disclose any information about the people of interest, including their ages, saying they have not been formally classified as suspects yet.

“What we know about this incident so far is just really disgusting,” Supt. Eddie Johnson said Saturday at Chicago police headquarters. “Mark my words: we will find them.”

Rivera, a Gresham District patrolman who would have marked two years on the force in May, went to a popular nightlife district with a fellow male officer after they finished their Friday night shift, Johnson said.

They left the Stout Barrel House early Saturday with two friends, a man and woman, and got into a Honda Accord about 3:30 a.m. parked in the 700 block of North Clark, according to police.

That’s when at least three unknown males walked up to the car, and, without exchanging words, one of them pulled out a gun to fire shots into the car before they ran away, police said.

Surveillance video showed the shooter’s group targeted the off-duty officers’ car. Johnson said the shooting “appears to be random.”

Nothing was taken from the people in the car, and police said the two groups didn’t seem to have encountered each other earlier in the night.

“This appears to be an unprovoked attack against a group of individuals who went out to unwind on a Friday night,” he said.

John Rivera | Provided by Neko Castillo

John Rivera | Provided by Neko Castillo

RELATED: Officer John Rivera alway knew he wanted to be a police officer

Officers on patrol nearby heard the gunfire, saw people running and responded within seconds, police said. They immediately stopped two people, one of whom was released soon after.

Hotel Felix guests Lynn Daily and Samuel Pennat awoke to the gunfire, which they described as five to seven steady shots, and looked out the window of their seventh-floor room. On the street below, they could see someone in a white hoodie performing CPR on a person lying on the sidewalk.

“He wasn’t moving,” Daily said.

Neither person appeared to be wearing clothing that would indicate they were police officers, she said.

Rivera, a Hegewisch resident, was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital with gunshot wounds to the chest, arm and mouth, authorities said. He was pronounced dead about 20 minutes later.

The 23-year-old man sitting behind Rivera in the car, who is not an officer, was shot in the chest and arms, police said. He was in critical “but stable” condition, and he underwent surgery Saturday morning.

The other off-duty officer and woman in the car were not hurt, police said.

Detectives were still poring through hours of video from the area of the shooting, which is awash with surveillance cameras.

Managers at Stout and several other area establishments declined to comment Saturday afternoon, as the stretch of Clark Street near the shooting remained blocked off for investigation.

The highly trafficked area is a short distance from numerous bars, restaurants and Holy Name Cathedral. It’s also a short walk away from Sound Bar, where a security guard was killed during an early-morning shootout outside that club earlier this month.

During his Friday night shift, Rivera had handled the paperwork on a murder case, and he “helped console a family on an unthinkable loss,” Johnson said.

Rivera had also ridden along with Johnson’s son, a fellow officer in the Gresham District where the superintendent started his own career.

Johnson lamented the loss of a young patrolman who was “very excited, very eager to serve,” with “his whole life and career in front of him.”

“He’s the kind of officer that we want in Chicago, a hard worker who loved going out on patrol and solving problems,” Johnson said. “When you first come on you want to make a difference, that’s why you take this job.”

Shortly before 8 a.m. Saturday, Chicago firefighters raised the American flag over Harrison Street as a procession of police vehicles followed the ambulance carrying Rivera’s body to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

“It’s a very sad day, we’re mourning the loss of another Chicago police officer,” Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham said Saturday morning outside Northwestern Memorial Hospital, adding that, despite the department’s sadness, “every man from the Chicago Police Department will go out and do their job” today.

The shooting marks the latest tragedy for a police department that has endured the deaths of four on-duty officers and at least six officer suicides since the start of last year.

In February 2018, Cmdr. Paul Bauer was fatally shot by a robbery suspect outside the Thompson Center in the Loop. In November, a gunman killed Officer Samuel Jimenez as he rushed into the middle of a shooting spree inside Mercy Hospital, and a month later, officers Eduardo Marmolejo and Conrad Gary were caught unaware and fatally hit by a Metra train on the Far South Side as they responded to a shooting.

Contributing: Luke Wilusz, Tyler LaRiviere and Matthew Hendrickson

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