University of Chicago police officer shoots and seriously wounds gunman in Hyde Park

The gunman was shot as he continued to approach the officer, even after he was struck by a bullet, according to the university.

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Evidence markers are seen near police officers standing near the intersection of East 53rd Street and South Woodlawn Avenue in the Hyde Park neighborhood, Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 18, 2022, after University of Chicago Police shot a man late Tuesday morning, according to the Chicago Fire Department.

Evidence markers are seen near police officers standing near the intersection of East 53rd Street and South Woodlawn Avenue in the Hyde Park neighborhood, Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 18, 2022, after University of Chicago Police shot a man late Tuesday morning, according to the Chicago Fire Department.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

A University of Chicago police officer shot and wounded a gunman who opened fire in Hyde Park late Tuesday morning, officials said.

An officer driving north stopped to investigate a man walking south with a handgun drawn on Woodlawn Avenue at 53rd Street. The gunman, who is unaffiliated with the university, opened fire as the officer stepped out of his vehicle, according to an updated statement sent Wednesday morning by Eric Heath, associate vice president for safety and security at the university.

The officer took cover and repeatedly told the suspect to get on the ground, according to the statement. The officer then fired at the man as he walked toward the officer. The man, struck by a bullet, continued to advance with his gun drawn toward the officer, and the officer shot him again, the statement says.

Paramedics picked up the gunshot victim, a man in his 20s, around 11:40 a.m. near Hyde Park Boulevard and Woodlawn Avenue, Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said. He was taken in critical condition to the university’s medical center with multiple gunshot wounds, he said.

No one else was injured, the school said in its statement.

Video of the shooting will be released publicly “as soon as possible,” the school said.

Shortly after the shooting, police blocked off 53rd Street from Kimbark to an alley west of Woodlawn. Six evidence markers could be seen on the ground.

An employee who answered the phone at Kimbark Liquor and Wine said people ran in the store saying they saw “a guy waving a gun” before shooting erupted. The employee, who asked not to be named, didn’t see the shooting himself.

After the shooting, some residents walked by and asked what happened. “Welcome to Hyde Park,” one woman said under her breath as she passed by with her dog.

The Chicago Police Department and university are both investigating the shooting. The officer is being placed on mandatory administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigations, the school said.

In April 2018, University of Chicago police shot a student about a block from Tuesday’s incident after the man allegedly charged at an officer holding a pipe during a possible mental health crisis.

The student, then-21-year-old Charles Soji Thomas, was later charged with aggravated assault of a police officer and criminal damage to property for allegedly smashing windows of cars shortly before the shooting. The charges were later dropped.

Students with CareNotCops, a group formed in response to the Thomas case, were disturbed by the similarities to Tuesday’s shooting.

“From what we know right now, it seems like he was undergoing a mental health crisis, which just further connects it to Soji,” Warren Wagner, an organizer with CareNotCops, told the Sun-Times.

Since the group's formation, CareNotCops has pushed the university to divest from its police forces and further invest in mental health resources and facilities on campus.

The fatal shooting of graduate student Shaoxiong “Dennis” Zheng this past fall led some members of the university community to demand a larger police presence on campus, but Hala Hersi, another organizer with CareNotCops, said such actions will do nothing to address the root causes of violence.

“Police only ever react to gun violence — there are never any preventative measures,” Hersi said. “If we want to begin actually healing as a community...we must start by ending violent practices of increased policing and surveillance.”

“What we actually need is investment in our communities,” Sahar Punjwani, another organizer with CareNotCops, told the Sun-Times. “We need things like access to mental health resources or the PeaceBook that GoodKids MadCity advocates for, because policing doesn't solve the issue.”

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