North Avenue Beach closed after shots fired amid large fight; no injuries reported

About 80 to 100 teens were gathered at the beach Friday afternoon when the fight erupted and one person fired a gun, police said.

SHARE North Avenue Beach closed after shots fired amid large fight; no injuries reported
Police officers run after a group of teenagers got into a fight and shots were fired at North Avenue Beach, Friday, May 26, 2023.

Chicago police chase a group of teens who got into a fight at North Avenue Beach Friday afternoon.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Within hours after all 22 of Chicago’s beaches opened Friday, gunshots were fired during a large fight at North Avenue Beach, one of the city’s busiest.

No one was struck by the gunfire, but a nearby car was damaged. About 80 to 100 teenagers were gathered at the beach around 1:30 p.m. when the fight broke out, and one person fired a gun, police said.

A 15-year-old boy was taken into custody and charged with aggravated discharge of a firearm and criminal damage to property, police said. No gun was recovered.

The section of North Avenue Beach where the shots were fired remained closed for several hours, but reopened in the early evening, police said. The bike path remained open.

Bags were being searched Friday at different checkpoints along the beachfront for prohibited items, police said, including weapons and alcohol. Those checkpoints will remain throughout the summer.

Brandon Ellington, Brittany Ball and Miguel Segundo stopped at the beach Friday afternoon, but were kicked off the sand because of the shooting.

“This is my first day off all week, and then I work through the weekend,” Ball said.

The three friends were excited to enjoy the first weekend for open beaches. “What a way to kick off summer,” Segundo said.

Also hoping to visit the beach Friday was Mikaylah Willis, in town from St. Louis for the weekend to celebrate her son’s 7th birthday.

Willis said they still plan to spend time at the city’s beaches while they’re in town.

“It happens, unfortunately. But we’re still going to enjoy our weekend,” Willis said. “[Shootings] just seem to be a part of life now.”

Beachgoers hoping to visit one of Chicago’s beaches this summer can swim from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Labor Day.

Besides the security checks, the Chicago Park District is introducing a beach safety ambassadors program this summer. Thirty ambassadors will be posted at five of Chicago’s busiest beaches to enforce beach rules and help with maintenance, among other duties.

A lifeguard walks near a police officer after a group of teenagers got into a fight and shots were fired at North Avenue Beach on Friday, May 26, 2023.

A lifeguard walks near a police officer after a group of teenagers got into a fight and shots were fired at North Avenue Beach on Friday. No one was injured and one individual is in custody, according to police.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The flag system remains in place at beaches, Park District spokesperson Irene Tostado said. A red flag means beaches are closed to swimmers, and a green flag means a beach is open for swimming. A yellow flag encourages swimmers to use caution. Friday, the flag was yellow because of low water temperatures, Tostado said.

Kyle Murray, a member of the aquatics lead staff, reminded beachgoers to swim near a lifeguard.

“We’re here for your safety,” he said.

Last year, 12th Street Beach near Chicago’s Museum Campus was closed due to a shortage of lifeguards. Tostado said that beach is open now and she is “very optimistic” about filling staff openings.

The Park District received around 1,500 lifeguard applications this year, Tostado said, about double the number received last year. A full staff is about 750 lifeguards, she said.

For now, beaches are being staffed by returning guards, said Andy Walsh, the Park District’s manager of beaches and pools. New applicants still must be vetted, and new guards trained and certified.

One of those returning lifeguards is Jenna Keating, who has spent her summers since 2017 working as a lifeguard at North Avenue Beach. She said a lifelong love for swimming and desire to keep people safe has kept her coming back year after year.

Chicago public pools will open in late June. Last year, only 37 of Chicago’s 77 pools were open because of staffing shortages. Tostado said there was a national lifeguard shortage last year, but numbers seem to be rebounding.

It’s too soon to tell how many pools the Park District will be able to open this year, but Walsh said he is optimistic about being able to open them all.

Last year, the Park District introduced a $600 retention bonus for lifeguards to encourage applications. New incentives for lifeguards to join the staff this year include tickets to see the Chicago Fire play and day passes for Lollapalooza, Tostado said. The Park District will also pay for training and certifications for lifeguards.

A lifeguard stands near police tape that is used to cordon off a damaged Chicago Park District vehicle after a group of teenagers got into a fight and shots were fired, according to a Chicago Police Department spokesperson, ahead of Memorial Day weekend at North Avenue Beach, Friday, May 26, 2023. No one was injured and one individual is in custody, according to police. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

A lifeguard stands near police tape used to cordon off a damaged Chicago Park District vehicle at North Avenue Beach Friday after a group of teens fought and shots were fired. No one was injured, police said.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

A man dressed as Spider Man salutes to police officers after a group of teenagers got into a fight and shots were fired, according to a Chicago Police Department spokesperson, ahead of Memorial Day weekend at North Avenue Beach, Friday, May 26, 2023. No one was injured and one individual is in custody, according to police. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

A man dressed as Spider-Man salutes police officers at North Avenue Beach Friday after shots were fired, prompting the beach’s closure on its opening day.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

A family walks in front of police officers after a group of teenagers got into a fight and shots were fired, according to a Chicago Police Department spokesperson, ahead of Memorial Day weekend at North Avenue Beach, Friday, May 26, 2023. No one was injured and one individual is in custody, according to police. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

A family walks behind police officers called Friday afternoon to North Avenue Beach after shots were fired. No one was injured, according to police.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The Latest
The boy and a 16-year-old girl were on a raft Monday morning when it flipped over. Chicago Fire Department divers brought the boy to shore after a helicopter spotted him underwater.
The fire department gave the all-clear to restore track power around 2:10 p.m., but it is still unclear when train service will resume.
Ald. Matt Martin (47th) wants to start small, with a public financing program confined to candidates for City Council. That limits the cost to roughly $10 million over four years.
Talyn Taylor, Niki Dugandzic, Cameron Brooks and Gabe Kaminski all recently made college decisions.
The company, which was purchased by private equity firm Variant Equity Advisors for $270 million in 2019, said bus operations will continue as it undergoes a court-supervised sale of its assets.