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Afternoon Edition: Aug. 27, 2021

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

Keith Thornton Jr. is a police communications operator II for Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications 
Keith Thornton Jr. is a police communications operator II for Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

This afternoon will be mostly sunny with a high near 91 degrees and heat index values as high as 98. Tonight will be partly cloudy with a low around 75. Tomorrow will be sunny with a high near 92 and Sunday will be mostly sunny with a high near 91 and thunderstorms likely in the late afternoon.

Top story

Chicago dispatcher who helped the night Ella French was murdered: ‘I just want to help’

On Aug. 7, the night police officer Ella French was killed and her partner seriously wounded, a police radio dispatcher sprang into action.

In those tense moments, Keith Thornton, Jr., 32, an employee of the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications, seemed to know precisely what to do. What to say. Where to go.

And his calm, commanding exceptionalism transfixed listeners to a 10-minute police radio transmission that hit the internet the next day.

Thornton’s clear and lightning speed bullet dispatches were lauded as exemplary; police Superintendent David Brown and Mayor Lori Lightfoot called to congratulate Thornton on his service.

But except for a brief Facebook post calling for public police support, he basically went silent.

Who is this guy?

In an exclusive interview with the Sun-Times this week, the elusive Thornton describes himself as a proud, gay, Black American who grew up on the West Side in Austin along with his parents, two sisters and four brothers.

And what he brought to the table the night of Aug. 7 was a confluence of all the jobs “I have ever held” — along with a gift from his dad when he was 4 years old: a fire scanner from Radio Shack.

“Being of service is a powerful thing,” Thornton said. “Working in the community in a leadership role is so important. I just want to help.”

Columnist Michael Sneed has more on Thornton and the events of that night here.

More news you need

  1. Investigators in Lyons tomorrow plan to dig up the yard of a home where they suspect two bodies might be buried. Two brothers who live in the home told police they buried their mother and sister in the yard after each had died.
  2. Illinois is ending the week with a daily COVID-19 caseload higher than any the state has seen since late January. Only 16% of the state’s ICU hospital beds are available a day after Gov. Pritzker announced a statewide indoor mask mandate.
  3. Some Chicago settlement agencies say they are seeing an uptick in refugees coming from Afghanistan, though most will head to other parts of the country with larger Afghan communities. Elvia Malagón spoke to leaders from the groups about their efforts.
  4. Investigators say a pregnant woman found floating in Lake Michigan earlier this month had been stabbed to death. The 19-year-old, whose identity will be confirmed pending test results, was reported missing from Chicago, officials said.
  5. If you were hoping to look up a case on the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County’s website, you may be out of luck for a “few weeks.” The website has been down since Aug. 13 after a breach that court staff say directed users to an NFL-related website.
  6. A special prosecutor will handle eight cases in which defendants allege they were framed by retired Chicago Police detective Kriston Kato, who is married to a Cook County criminal court judge. In the cases, some dating back to the 1980s, Kato has been accused of fabricating evidence and intimidating witnesses.
  7. Michael “Mick Rain” Ruane, known as the drummer for Chicago power pop group Pezband, has died of COVID-19 at 68 in Florida. Ruane’s family took out a death notice in the Tampa Bay Times that said his death was “courtesy of the U.S. and Florida state governments’ homicidal pandemic policy.”
  8. After keeping fans waiting for two hours, Kanye West delivered a listening event for his long-delayed “Donda” album at Soldier Field last night. Read Selena Fragassi review of the show, which she calls “performance art on a scale we’ve never really seen before.”

A bright one

Washington Park beautification project brings flower farm to South Side

A new flower farm is bringing a splash of color to Washington Park, and if the idea takes root, others could sprout on the South and West sides.

The farm, at 5211 S. Prairie Ave., was planted by Chicago Eco House’s Southside Blooms, which just a couple of months ago opened its first standalone shop.

That Englewood store, which helps at-risk youth learn job skills, has been getting its flowers from gardens it planted on three other empty lots across the South Side. Southside Blooms workers will tend to the farm, which also will provide flowers for the Englewood shop to sell.

Quilen Blackwell, president of Chicago Eco House, plants ceremonial mariachi wiggles flowers at the new Washington Park flower farm Wednesday morning.
Quilen Blackwell, president of Chicago Eco House, plants ceremonial mariachi wiggles flowers at the new Washington Park flower farm Wednesday morning.
Cheyanne M. Daniels/Sun-Times

Quilen Blackwell, president of Chicago Eco House, said the four-acre farm began taking form in late May. By July, flowers began to bloom. The farm uses no pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizers and has a solar-powered irrigation system.

The new farm is a “pilot site” for expansion. Blackwell hopes to create more farms across the South and West sides.

“Today is really about trying to demonstrate to people the importance of not just the communities coming together, but how we already have solutions to the most pressing economic, social and environmental problems here,” Blackwell said at a ribbon-cutting for the farm Wednesday.

Cheyanne M. Daniels has more on the new flower farm here.

From the press box

Your daily question ☕

How do you feel about Chicago Public Schools’ return to full in-person learning on Monday?

Email us (please include your first name and where you live) and we might include your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday we asked you: It’s National Dog Day, so we want to know, how did you meet your furry friend? Here’s what some of you said...

“He was at a meet-and-greet at a rescue. Still a puppy and VERY energetic. Very sweet and loving. He was the first one I met. As we went to leave an hour or so later he jumped up to get my attention, so I sat down and pulled him up on my lap. Within 30 seconds he was asleep. He picked me.” — Rich Mathews

“I told my 3-month-old German Shepherd stray: ‘I’ve never had a puppy before and you’ve never been a puppy before so we’ll learn this together.’ Alfie was then always patient with me for 13 years until his last breath this past January.” — Jamie Taerbaum

“He was on a float for a local parade. The local humane society chose him and several other dogs to show to the public.” — Gerald Heeren

“I looked on the internet and came across the Anti-Cruelty Society website. Looked through the website and found the 8-year-old cockapoo. Fell in love with him as soon as I saw him and he was so excited and happy to leave. Three years later, we’re inseparable!” — Halona Jackson

“A friend of mine had him — she was going to take him to the pound because nobody wanted him since he was the runt of the litter. Best decision of my life. He is now 7 years old and he is my world.” — Lola Mccario

Thanks for reading the Chicago Afternoon Edition. Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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