CFD commander ‘blindsided’ by son’s crowded party

Paramedic commander Christine Matthews said the unauthorized party was hosted by her 26-year-old son, who doesn’t live with her, but has a key to her townhome “for emergencies.”

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A viral Facebook Live video on Saturday night captured a packed house party during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Chicago Fire Department commander who owns the Galewood townhome where her son hosted a crowded party on Saturday said she was ‘blindsided’ by what her son did. He doesn’t live there, but does have a key.

Tink Purcell/Facebook

The Chicago Fire Department commander who owns the Galewood townhome where a weekend house party was held said she was “blindsided” by her son’s decision to host the crowded party and would never have allowed it during a pandemic.

Paramedic commander Christine Matthews said Thursday the unauthorized party was hosted Saturday by her 26-year-old son, who doesn’t live with her, but has a key to her home “for emergencies.”

“I didn’t learn about the party until the police showed up the next day and told me,” Matthews wrote in an email to the Sun-Times.

“I went to apologize to my neighbors and I saw the video. ... I was completely blindsided. I would never condone this behavior. I am a paramedic. I have had people die from this!!!” she wrote.

“I would never allow 200 people in my brand new townhouse. It’s appalling and unacceptable. My Ring doorbell was removed. I’m not speaking to [my] son. And he is sorry for his actions now.”

Janeal Wright, Matthews’ son, has been quoted as saying he was “remorseful,” was oblivious to the need for social distancing and hopes to win his mother’s forgiveness by spreading the word about the coronavirus, particularly among millennials in black neighborhoods. Chicago’s African American community has borne the brunt of the pandemic.

Earlier this week, local Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th), Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s City Council floor leader, convened a meeting between Matthews and the commander of the Chicago Police Department’s Grand Central District. According to Villegas, Matthews was slapped with “a couple of citations for public nuisance” and “put on notice” that it can’t happen again.

Footage of the weekend party in the 2000 block of North Narragansett Avenue went viral, infuriating Lightfoot and Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

Videographer Tink Purcell captured the Saturday night party scene from halfway up a staircase and streamed it live on Facebook for about 24 minutes. Clips posted to Facebook showed dozens of people crammed into the home. Hardly anyone was wearing face masks.

Purcell has since told the news website The TRiiBE that the party was organized as a memorial to two friends of hers who were victims of gun violence.

Matthews also is one of nine female firefighters under investigation for participating in another video — this one recorded in the spirit of fun as part of the “Don’t Rush Challenge.” That’s an online competition conceived to break the stay-at-home boredom triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Chicago Fire Commissioner Richard C. Ford II has asked Inspector General Joe Ferguson to investigate the 2-minute, 9-second video circulating on social media.

In the challenge, participants shoot videos of themselves transforming from everyday attire into evening clothes and cocktail dresses.

A video apparently shot at several Chicago Fire Department locations features several firefighters in uniform. As part of the popular “Don’t Rush Challenge” on TikTok, the firefighters are then shown at home, dressed up for a night out.

Christine Matthews, a Chicago Fire Department commander, says racism was behind the negative response to a “Don’t Rush Challenge” video made by her and other firefighters.

Screenshot

The Chicago video under investigation starts with the nine female firefighters in uniform at firehouses dancing to the song “Don’t Rush,” by U.K. hip-hop duo Young T & Bugsey. Then, the women appear dressed to the nines at home.

Shooting video while on duty in a firehouse or using city equipment for publication without department approval is strictly prohibited, according to Fire Department spokesperson Larry Langford.

On Thursday, Matthews blamed “racists” within the Fire Department for blowing the whistle on her participation in the innocent video. She noted the video “features all black women” and that “white men on my job posted vomit emojis and other negative comments on the page” posted on Facebook. She refused to identify them.

When she retorted on Facebook, “the post was deleted and the racially-charged witch hunt began and they contacted you,” Matthews wrote in her email to the Sun-Times reporter who had been sent a copy of the “Don’t Rush” video.

Referring to the fire commissioner, who is African American, Matthews wrote: “Ford has a job to do and that’s what he has to do. [But] firemen are topless every year on a calendar and they take pictures in front of apparatus after fires. So, what’s the difference? This is ridiculous.”

She added, “The Don’t Rush Challenge is going on across the nation to lighten the mood during a pandemic. Fire departments across the nation, police departments and the military [are participating]. But leave it to Chicago to cite the rules and regulations. Rules are broken every day.”

The Chicago Fire Department has a long and documented history of racial discrimination and racial hijinks, including racist comments on fire radio.

Langford did not respond directly to Matthews’ statements. He would only say that CFD “has a strict policy on video permissions in the fire house” and that “no request was made. No permission given.”

Mike Butkus, director of contract enforcement for Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2, refused to comment.


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