A man accused of going on a shooting spree Saturday in Austin that wounded two people, including a Chicago police officer, was trying to “lure” cops to the area “because he wanted them to kill him,” prosecutors said Sunday.
Tracey Thomas Jr. was charged with the attempted murder of five officers, including the cop who was shot, according to Chicago police and the Cook County state’s attorney’s office. He wasn’t charged in separate shooting incidents involving civilians.
Saturday’s rampage started about 11:30 a.m., when Thomas, 29, approached a person riding a Divvy bike near Maypole and Cicero avenues and opened fire, assistant state’s attorney James Konstantopoulos said during Thomas’ initial court hearing.
The bicyclist was able to duck, though bullet holes pierced through multiple layers of his clothing, Konstantopoulos said. When he saw Thomas struggling to rack his gun, the biker took off and called for help.
About 10 minutes later, two people driving in an alley near Maypole and La Crosse avenues heard a popping sound as they looked for parking, Konstantopoulos said.
Thinking the sound came from a tire, one of them hopped out to investigate, according to Konstantopoulos. That’s when Thomas allegedly fired several more shots, striking the individual in his buttocks.
Konstantopoulos said the victim then got back into a car and the other person drove him to a strip mall at Fulton Street and Cicero Avenue to wait for authorities. Another person also reported seeing the shooting from her window.
Three officers responded; they found spent shell casings before they heard more gunfire and took cover. At least one round pierced a police SUV, noted Konstantopoulos.
Detectives then heard gunshots coming from that area and saw Thomas in the alley, Konstantopoulos said. When he fled west, the detectives tried to cut him off but lost sight of him. They then issued an advisory with his description.
Two other officers responding to a call of shots fired then got out of their vehicle to search for Thomas. When one of the officers approached a building at 205 N. La Crosse Ave., Thomas allegedly shot her in the hand as he positioned himself in a first-floor window.
After SWAT officers arrived, Thomas holed up in the building for hours, Konstantopoulos said. During that time, Konstantopoulos said Thomas admitted to the shootings in a 911 call and posted multiple videos to Facebook in which he held a handgun to his head.
About 2:20 p.m., Thomas surrendered and was taken into custody, according to Konstantopoulos and police. A chrome-barreled handgun matching the description of the weapon used in some of the shootings was recovered, along with ammunition and Thomas’ cellphone.
While in custody, Thomas told investigators he shot at the civilians “to lure police officers to the area,” Konstantopoulos said. Thomas then opened fire on the cops “because he wanted them to kill him.”
At the time of the rampage, Thomas was wanted on a Cook County warrant for manufacture and delivery of a controlled substance and a DuPage County warrant for identity theft. Konstantopoulos said Thomas was previously convicted of two felonies and two misdemeanors, though none violent in nature.
Thomas’ public defender, Courtney Smallwood, described her client as a lifelong Cook County resident who graduated from Manley Career Academy High School and has one child. Smallwood noted Thomas appeared to have suffered “some kind of mental break.” She called for a psychiatric evaluation and asked Judge Arthur Wesley Willis to grant him bail.
Earlier in the hearing, Thomas could be heard crying and pleading with authorities.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” he said.
While Willis agreed with Smallwood’s assessment of Thomas’ mental state and ordered an evaluation, the judge denied bail. Thomas’ next court date was set for Thursday.
The officer wounded Saturday is the third from the police department to be shot in a week. She was released from Mount Sinai Hospital Saturday afternoon, police said.
On Monday, an off-duty officer was ambushed by two gunmen at a red light in Calumet Heights on the South Side. And last Sunday, another on-duty Chicago police sergeant was shot while standing in the parking lot of the Gresham District police station, 7808 S. Halsted St.
Contributing: Sam Kelly, Emmanuel Camarillo