Lightfoot uses wounding of police officer to sound the alarm — again — about post-pandemic surge in domestic violence
After a Chicago Police officer was ambushed while responding to a domestic violence call, Mayor Lori Lightfoot had the grim statistics at her fingertips. “Domestic-related” homicides by firearm and non-fatal shootings have increased by a staggering 125 percent since 2019.
The post-pandemic surge in domestic violence reports has been perilous for the victims and their children, but also for the Chicago Police officers who respond to those dreaded calls.
Friday’s shooting of an officer responding to one such call in the University Village neighborhood was just another example of the crisis, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.
The 15-year CPD veteran was in serious condition at Stroger Hospital after suffering what Police Supt. David Brown described as “multiple gunshot wounds” while responding to a domestic violence call at 8:27 a.m. in the 1300 block of West Taylor Street.
Lightfoot used the latest in a rash of shootings targeting Chicago Police officers to highlight a problem that has been on her radar for months — the “significant surge” over the course of the two-year-long pandemic in domestic violence-related calls and the havoc those calls create.
The mayor had the grim statistics at her fingertips.
- ”Domestic-related” homicides by firearm and non-fatal shootings have increased by a staggering 125% since 2019.
- Non-fatal shootings alone tied to domestic violence calls are up 80% over the same period.
- And “domestic-related homicides” are up 23.5% over the same period last year.
“We’ve got to make sure that we’re addressing this surge. And I urge you in the media to talk about the fact that there has been this unbelievable increase in domestic violence-related homicides and shootings. It is a huge public health and public safety issue,” the mayor said.
As Brown described the shooting, the wounded officer never had a chance.
A convicted felon, Brown said the gunman allegedly opened fire as soon as the officers got off the elevator to the apartment, where the call of a “domestic disturbance” originated. Responding officers did not fire their weapons. They didn’t have time.
“This wasn’t a matter of police tactics. They were ambushed—clearly. The offender had intentions to harm them,” the superintendent said, adding that there was video that “confirms they were ambushed.”
“The best-laid plans don’t account for being ambushed by someone who’s intended to harm you as soon as you get off an elevator.”
One person was in custody and a weapon was recovered, according to police.
The wounded officer was taken to Stroger in the squad car of a University of Illinois at Chicago police officer who was monitoring CPD radio “likely saving his life,” Brown said.
Lightfoot openly acknowledged that, “We have a long way to go as a society in understanding the danger” —to victims of domestic violence, to officers who respond and to the children in households torn apart by it.
“Children that grow up in those circumstances themselves are more likely to be involved in domestic violence-related crimes down the road. This is a major challenge that we must meet as a community. Not the police alone. Not the mayor’s office alone,” Lightfoot said.
“There are a huge number of advocates... all across our city who stand ready to aid people that are suffering from domestic violence. If you are someone who’s living in a house where you are not safe,please call 311. There’s somebody on the other end of the line… ready to help you get out of a dangerous circumstance, provide you with support, with transport, with lodging so you and if you have children can live a safe life.”
Last year, Lightfoot unveiled what she called Chicago’s first-ever strategic plan to confront gender-based violence and human trafficking.
It was designed by survivors, along with community and city partners and supported by $25 million in “new investments” made possible by federal relief funds.
That new money includes $5 million in emergency financial assistance; 100 more “rapid-re-housing units” for women fleeing domestic abuse; what the city claims is a 2,000% increase in legal services for survivors; and “new program models” to support young people who bear the scars of seeing their mothers beaten in their own homes.
Operating on the premise that domestic violence is a “public health issue,” the Chicago Department of Public Health is also spearheading a pilot program calling for the city to bring services to people who cause harm, whether or not criminal charges or an order of protection has been filed against them. Such services normally require a court order.
It’s not the first time that Lightfoot has shined a light on the post-pandemic surge in domestic violence. She did the same thing on Super Bowl Monday, which coincided with Valentine’s Day this year.
Theresa Nihill, chief operating officer of Metropolitan Family Services, said on that day that the city’s new collaborative approach would focus initially on South Chicago, Englewood, West Englewood and Chicago Lawn “with the hope that, if we do this right, we can expand this across the city.”
“We want to reach the perpetrators who often fall through the cracks. We won’t be calling the police. We want to build a safe and trusting space for these persons to learn, to heal and to make amends,” she said.
“It’s gonna be really hard. ... [But] all of us working together seeing the persons who cause harm through the lens of trauma, we believe, can help these persons and their victims heal and break this cycle.”