Chicago police know who fatally stabbed a Maryland graduate student on a weekend afternoon in the South Loop and are “scouring the various homeless encampments downtown,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday.
“We know who he is. We’ve got good film of him. We believe he’s a homeless individual,” Lightfoot said. “It’s awful. No question about it.”
But at a later news conference, Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan stopped short of saying investigators know who the attacker is. “We are seeking the identity and the eventual arrest of the person who stabbed that female,” he said.
He declined to comment further, other than to say investigators have video of the attack and a witness who is cooperating.
Anat Kimchi, 31, was walking in the 400 block of South Wacker Drive about 4 p.m. Saturday when a man stabbed her in the back, according to Chicago police. She was pronounced dead at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
Kimchi had been working on her doctoral degree in criminology and criminal justice at the University of Maryland. Her family said she was in Chicago visiting friends.
“The University of Maryland grieves the loss of Anat Kimchi, a brilliant young scholar,” the school said in a statement. “We offer our condolences to her friends and family during this difficult time.”
Lightfoot acknowledged the daylight stabbing near Willis Tower was shocking. But she categorically denied the attack was an indication the downtown is unsafe.
“The events that you noted are obviously tragic and heartbreaking. But the reality is — June over June from last year to this one — what we’ve seen is a downward trend in both homicides and shootings.
“Now, I am the first to tell you that’s cold comfort to a single person who’s been shot [or stabbed] and a single person who’s been killed,” she added.
But the number of both shootings and homicides are actually up from last year, according to data kept by the Chicago Sun-Times.
All homicides are up nearly 5% compared to 2020 and up about 28% from 2019 at this time. Shooting-related homicides are up more than 9% since 2020, and almost 37% compared with 2019.
So far this year, at least 1,734 people have been shot in Chicago, compared to 1,463 people at this time last year.
The mayor was defensive when asked whether the recent surge in brazen shootings, stabbings and carjackings in the downtown area were in any way tied to the recent removal of the downtown district commander.
“I don’t typically get into personnel moves, particularly in the police department,” the mayor said. “But I think you need to dig a little deeper and figure out what happened on his watch. There’s a reason why this happened in the summer, which we don’t typically do. I’ll just leave it at that.”
Kimchi was described by her department chairman at the University of Maryland as “a notably accomplished scholar.”
“More importantly she was a remarkable woman who was beloved by friends and family,” said Gary D. LaFree, chairman of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland.
Kimchi had earned her master’s degree in criminology and criminal justice from the University of Maryland in 2017, and had receive bachelor’s degrees in both psychology and criminology.
Kimchi was interested in courts, sentencing and corrections, according to Choice Research Associates, where she had worked as a consultant in recent years.
One of her projects was assessing the disparity in probation sentences, and evaluating the impact of placing female juvenile suspects in custody.
Kimchi’s family asked for privacy while they mourned her death, a family spokeswoman said.
Over the weekend, Police Superintendent David Brown told reporters that investigators were reviewing police camera footage that might have recorded the attacker.
The superintendent said the attacker was believed to be homeless, and noted a nearby homeless encampment below the Interstate 290 overpass that is in the block.
Brown said the suspect might have concealed himself in high vegetation and surprised Kimchi. “This area is pretty secluded, going down this ramp is not a well-traveled area, it’s adjacent to a homeless encampment,” he said.
Sun-Times reporter Manny Ramos contributed