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In videos ahead of shooting spree, gunman says, ‘I’m going to blow up the whole community’

A relative tells the Sun-Times that Jason Nightengale “was fighting some demons. He had some problems.”

Chicago and Evanston police investigate a crime scene after a gunman went on a shooting spree before being killed by police during a shootout in Evanston Saturday night, Jan. 9, 2021. (Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times)
Chicago and Evanston police investigate a crime scene after a gunman went on a shooting spree before being killed by police during a shootout in Evanston Saturday night, Jan. 9, 2021. (Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times)
Ashlee Rezin Garcia, AP Photos

Over the past week, the man accused of killing three people in Saturday’s shooting spree posted dozens of videos online in which he ranted about Satan, waved a gun and talked about killing random people.

In one recording, Jason Nightengale, 32, of Chicago also said, “I’m going to blow up the whole community.”

Nightengale died Saturday during a shootout following his rampage, which also left four people critically wounded. Police have said they don’t know the motive behind the crime spree, but the videos seem to confirm what one relative, Annette Nightengale, told the Chicago Sun-Times: “He was fighting some demons. He had some problems.”

The videos reviewed by the Sun-Times were posted on Facebook under a different name and were first reported by the blog Crime in Wrigleyville and Boystown. The Facebook account was taken down Sunday.

In one recording, Nightengale can be seen outside with a black hoodie pulled over his head and part of his face covered. He took a video of a parked SUV and said, “I’m lookin’ for somebody by theyself, you know what I mean, walkin’ to they car. Might be this guy. I might jack his a—. He look like a problem. He look like a problem for me. I don’t need no problem.”

Though Annette Nightengale said Jason Nightengale “had some problems,” she also said he “was a wonderful father. He tried to be as best as he possibly could with what he had.”

“He was a very determined young man, trying hard to do whatever he could do for his children. It’s a great loss for his family,” she said, declining to give more information.

Tracking the shooting spree

Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said Nightengale’s shooting spree began when he shot to death a 30-year-old man shortly before 2 p.m. in a parking garage in the 5000 block of East End while the man was sitting in his vehicle.

From there, Nightengale went to an apartment building a block away and “just randomly” began shooting, killing a building security guard who was sitting at the front desk, Brown said. The gunman then shot a 77-year-old woman in the head in the same building as she was getting her mail. She remains in critical condition Sunday.

Nightengale went to an apartment building in the 5500 block of South East End, where it is believed his relatives once lived, and forced a man he knew at gunpoint to give him the keys to a red Toyota, police said.

Nightengale drove to the 9300 block of South Halsted. There, at about 3 p.m., he entered a convenience store, announced a robbery and began shooting, killing a 20-year-old man inside the store. An 81-year-old woman was shot in the back and neck and remains in critical condition at Advocate Christ Medical Center.

An hour later, a 15-year-old girl was shot in the head as she rode in a vehicle in the 10300 block of South Halsted Street with her mother. Brown said Nightengale is believed to be responsible for that shooting as well. It left the girl in critical condition.

Nightengale then returned to one of the shooting scenes and fired at investigating officers. No officers were hurt.

At 5:34 p.m., a dispatcher alerted Chicago police officers in Rogers Park that Nightengale was suspected of being there.

The dispatcher described the red Toyota that Nightengale had been driving and said the car “supposedly just pinged at 7600 N. Sheridan,” apparently referencing a tracking system.

“He’s armed and dangerous — supposedly used a .45-caliber in two homicides today,” the dispatcher said, according to a recording of the call.

Another alert was put out at 5:41 p.m. saying the car was a victim’s — not Nightengale’s.

Moments later, an officer called the dispatcher saying shots were fired near an IHOP in Evanston. That’s where Evanston Police Chief Demitrous Cook said Nightengale took a woman hostage. The woman was shot and remains in critical condition Sunday.

Nightengale then ran out of the restaurant and got in a shootout with Evanston officers in a nearby Dollar General parking lot.

That’s where Cook said Nightengale was shot and killed.

Evanston Mayor Stephen Hagerty credited the quick response of Evanston officers for bringing “the bloodshed to an end” in a busy commercial area.

“While we are still learning more about the offender, his motive and the totality of yesterday’s tragic events, one thing is clear: If not for the brave actions of Evanston and Chicago police, many more innocent lives would have been lost,” Hagerty said, adding the offender’s weapon was recovered at the scene.

Mourning the victims

The University of Chicago on Sunday identified the man shot in the parking garage as Yiran Fan, a Ph.D. student from China in a joint program of the Booth School of Business and the Kenneth C. Griffin Department of Economics. His family in China has been notified, according to the school.

“This sudden and senseless loss of life causes us indescribable sorrow,” President Robert J. Zimmer and Provost Ka Yee C. Lee said in a statement. “In the days ahead we will come together as a community to mourn, and to lift up fellow members of our community in this difficult and very sad time.”

Harald Uhlig, a macroeconomics professor at University of Chicago, called Fan “one of our best and brightest” graduate students in a tweet Sunday. Fan earned the Lee Prize for receiving the highest score on the university core exams in fall 2018 and was preparing to propose his dissertation later this year.

Uhlig also said Fan was his teacher assistant last fall. Leo Aparisi de Lannoy, a colleague of Fan who’s also a Ph.D. candidate, was a student in one of the economic classes Fan helped with last year.

Aparisi de Lannoy described Fan as “enthusiastic, especially when he was teaching.”

“He was really passionate,” said Aparisi de Lannoy, 25, who’s from Paris. “He was always so kind and he was always ready to help you. He could sense when something was wrong sometimes. He was really available to help others.”

Aparisi de Lannoy said he’s still in a “state of shock” upon hearing the tragic news of Fan’s death.

“It happened right across the street from where I lived,” Aparisi de Lannoy said. “I also feel sorrow to never be able to speak to Yiran again. I just received an email from him like three days ago, so it’s a bit unreal to not be able to see him again.

“It was just completely random, it’s hard to explain.”

Another victim of Saturday’s shooting spree was 46-year-old Aisha Nevell, known better as Aisha Johnson, who manned the door at an East Hyde Park condominium.

Her sister-in-law, Sheila Johnson, said Nevell was always the “life of the party.”

“She would fill everyone with laughter,” Johnson said. “She cared about everyone and how everyone feels.”

Nevell, who leaves behind two adult children, was also known as the “bartender of the family.” Her brother, Ronald Johnson, said she would always make special martinis for everyone at their family gatherings.

“She always had some drink or concoction as I call them that she would always [say,] ‘Try this.’ And it’s like, ‘Oh, God. What is this?’” he said.

“She’s going to make everyone drinks,” Sheila Johnson recalled. “I’m not a drinker, but she makes sure everyone’s drinking, and then she would make a joke with me because she would say, ‘I’m going to pour you a shot of water and then you’d be ready to shoot when we drank.’”

Nevell was beloved by the Barclay Condominium community, Sheila Johnson said. “She loved to dance and party all the time, and she made everyone happy.”

Sheila Johnson said Nevell’s death was a “big shock.” She made plans with her sister-in-law on Friday to meet up after she got off work Saturday evening. Nevell and Johnson are avid Bears fans and planned to watch Sunday’s wild-card playoff game at his house.

Johnson still had people over to watch the game, saying: “I know she would want us to keep going.”

The third victim who died in Saturday’s shooting spree was 20-year-old Anthony Faulkner. He was shopping at a convenience shop in the 9300 block of South Halsted Street on Saturday afternoon, when Nightengale entered the store and announced a robbery. Faulkner was fatally shot in the head.