‘A keg of dynamite’: Police shooting in Englewood leads to looting, gunfire downtown
Chicago remained on edge Monday evening as businesses cleaned up and the mayor and state’s attorney held dueling news conferences.
Some 10 weeks after the killing of George Floyd triggered protests and looting throughout Chicago, a police shooting in Englewood on Sunday afternoon — and subsequent rumormongering on social media — led to additional shootings downtown, along with widespread theft and destruction in the city’s Magnificent Mile and other retail shopping districts.
Two people were shot and more than 100 people were arrested as hundreds of people looted dozens of high-end shops from the South Loop to Lincoln Park, leaving heaps of shattered glass and empty storefronts in their wake.
When the dust settled, business owners broke out their brooms and called insurance companies to begin picking up the pieces of the second wave of looting this summer. Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her police superintendent defended the cops and blamed Cook County prosecutors for being soft on looters who’d been arrested in late May and early June, setting the stage for the violence. The county’s top prosecutor, State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, responded that she’s prosecuting looters to the fullest extent of the law and said Lightfoot is oversimplifying the issue.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people squared off with police near Madison Street and Karlov Avenue on Monday afternoon, with rocks, bottles and bricks being hurled. And Black Lives Matter challenged the Police Department’s narrative of the Sunday afternoon shooting of a 20-year-old man that led to it all.
But prosecutors on Monday evening charged the man, Latrell Allen, with two counts of attempted murder for shooting at officers in Englewood before they shot him.
As Lightfoot put restrictions on access in and out of downtown for the second time this year, community activists were left trying to make sense of what had happened.
“Chicago is unstable. It’s like a keg of dynamite right now,” said the Rev. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Catholic Church in Auburn Gresham, about 3 miles south of where the police shooting occurred. “People are so frustrated, so hopeless, so angry, and it doesn’t take much — you light a match and throw it on a fire, it goes up.”
“We have to start understanding why this is even happening,” Ja’Mal Green, a community activist and former mayoral candidate, told WGN News. “Whenever there’s a situation where people get angry enough to start breaking stuff and stealing, we’re in a bad situation, and we need to figure out what problems we have to tackle.”
Lightfoot and police Supt. David Brown stressed that the looting wasn’t connected to any peaceful protest, unlike the circumstances that led to looting after Floyd’s death.
“Criminals took to the streets with the confidence that there would be no consequences for their actions,” Brown said.
Englewood shooting a spark
Allen’s family denied that he had a gun, and CPD said no bodycam footage captured the shooting. But the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, the agency that investigates uses of force by CPD officers, said its investigation so far confirms that Allen fired at officers before he was shot.
After the shooting around 2:30 p.m. Sunday, a crowd gathered in the area. “Tempers flared, fueled by misinformation,” Brown said. Lightfoot said the shooter was “not an unarmed juvenile” as was “propagated on social media.”
Rumors about the shooting continued to swirl on social media Sunday night, feeding still-high tensions between police and Englewood residents.
Looting soon broke out at stores near 87th Street and the Dan Ryan. Within hours, a caravan headed north toward downtown, Brown said.
Many of the most recognizable stores along and near the famed Magnificent Mile shopping strip had their windows broken and inventory stolen, including Coach, Timberland, Nike, Nordstrom, Burberry, Macy’s, Chase bank, Ugg, Pandora jewelry, Zara, Saks Fifth Avenue, Ralph Lauren, Verizon, Omega, Louis Vuitton, Bloomingdale’s, Swiss Fine Timing, AllSaints, Dior, Brunello Cucinneli, Oliver Peoples, Hermès, Giorgio Armani, Jimmy Choo and Saint Laurent.
By Monday afternoon, reports of looting on the West Side were still coming in to CPD dispatchers.
Two people were shot downtown amid the looting. More than 100 were arrested. More gunshots were fired at and by CPD officers near Lake Street and Michigan Avenue, though no one was struck. All told, 13 police officers were injured. Authorities didn’t provide injury statistics for civilians.
Bridges over the Chicago River were raised to keep people out of the area. CTA service to the Loop was halted. Downtown expressway exits were closed.
“Make no mistake, we were beyond overwhelmed,” said one CPD officer who was assigned to downtown from Sunday into Monday.
Scores of gawkers, many out for a morning run or walking their dog, milled about along the Magnificent Mile on Monday morning, snapping iPhone photos of the damage while crews worked to cover shattered windows with plywood.
‘Dishonest blame games’
Lightfoot and Brown admonished the looters as brazen opportunists with no respect for the rule of law.
Brown and Lightfoot also called on the Cook County state’s attorney’s office to handle the arrests from the looting seriously, arguing that previous arrests by Chicago police from looting in May and June — during the height of unrest — were not. With local prosecutors dropping cases, looters believed there would be no serious consequences for committing crimes, they said.
At her own news conference a few hours later, State’s Attorney Foxx pushed back.
“I think it’s incumbent upon us, for the people that we serve . . . that we have an honest conversation about what’s happening right now,” Foxx said. “It does not serve us to have dishonest blame games, when all of our hearts are breaking by what we’re seeing.”
In a statement issued Monday afternoon, the Chicago chapter of Black Lives Matter noted that Chicago is the largest city in the country to not change its policing budget after Floyd’s death.
“Righteous and justified anger — like the kind expressed after the police murder of Laquan McDonald and subsequent cover-up — has proven to be the only tool for police accountability that the public has at their disposal,” BLM said.
Three charged in looting incidents
Meanwhile, in bond court, looting cases started to come in. Three men — two from Chicago and one from Joliet — faced charges.
Devin Draper, 21, was charged with the unlawful use of a weapon after officers spotted him carrying looted merchandise outside a South Side shopping mall, at 112 W. 87th St., shortly before midnight Sunday, according to Cook County prosecutors. Draper ran when he saw the officers, prosecutors said, but tripped in an alley. While patting him down, an officer found a gun on the front left part of Draper’s pants, prosecutors said.
At the same scene about 10 minutes earlier, Devon Bates, 29, was carrying an estimated $600 worth of merchandise from City Sports when officers told him to stop, prosecutors said. He was charged with burglary and resisting arrest.
Then, around 12:52 a.m. Monday, officers standing outside the Burberry store on the Magnificent Mile watched Denisck Lomax, 25, throw a brick through a storefront window, prosecutors said. He then threw a brick at a police sergeant.
Lomax, who lives with his parents in Joliet, denied throwing a brick at the sergeant but admitted throwing one at the window, prosecutors said. He was charged with aggravated battery to a police officer, resisting arrest and criminal damage to property.
Draper, whom the judge said she believes poses “a real threat to the community,” was held on a $300,000 bail. Meanwhile, Bates’ and Lomax’s bails were set at $6,000 and $5,000, respectively. All three are expected back in court Aug. 17.
West Side standoff
A tense standoff between police and hundreds of West Side residents also unfolded Monday afternoon.
It wasn’t clear what prompted a crowd of hundreds to come together near Madison Street and Karlov Avenue about noon Monday. A Chicago Tribune photographer was hit in the head with a brick and required medical attention. A reporter and a photographer for the Sun-Times were threatened when they approached some people in the crowd.
By 1 p.m., hundreds of officers had flooded the area.
A police SWAT team tried to clear the crowd from an alley near that intersection, forcing the larger crowd to break into smaller groups. Some people tried to break into the back door of a business in the neighborhood, but it was unclear if they gained entry. Other businesses along the street were closed, with their metal gates down covering their storefronts. A few had their windows broken.
Contributing: Stefano Esposito, David Struett, Tom Schuba