‘A gun-crime crisis’ — Chicago’s top cop on defensive again after mass shooting at Near North Side trouble spot
Shootings have been rising downtown for much of the year. The 18th police district, where the shooting occurred, has logged the most homicides in 17 years and the most shootings since at least 2010.
For the third time this week, Chicago’s top cop found himself on the defensive over gun violence Friday, this time over a mass shooting downtown that left two dead and seven injured.
The people were shot near a notorious trouble-spot at Chicago Avenue and State Street as two groups began fighting near a McDonald’s restaurant and someone opened fire into the crowd.
The attack occurred just a day after Chicago police shot and seriously wounded an unarmed 13-year-old boy during a chase in Austin, and less than a week after a 16-year-old boy was fatally shot during a fight in Millennium Park.
Shootings have been spiking downtown for much of the year. The 18th police district, where the McDonald’s is located, has logged the most homicides in 17 years and the most shootings since at least 2010.
“This is a gun-crime crisis,” Brown told reporters who pressed him on his strategy going into the summer, typically the most violent time in the city. ”We are awash in guns.”
Brown was asked about a tweet from Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) complaining about the “daily excuses coming out of the superintendent’s office [that] insult intelligence & are infuriating.”
Reilly questioned Brown’s plan to assign fixed police posts at State and Chicago and on the CTA Red Line subway platform nearby in the wake of Thursday night’s attack.
“We were already supposed to have fixed posts in place at Chicago & State. So, huh?” the alderperson tweeted. “City Council needs to step in & demand accountability. Their strategy is failing us miserably.”
Brown declined to respond to the tweet, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot later backed up her superintendent, saying she agreed young people have been “fussing and fighting since the beginning of time,” and the only difference now is that too many of them are settling their differences with a gun.
“There are many young people that I’ve sat with who tell me that they feel like they need a gun to feel safe,” Lightfoot said at an afternoon news conference with Brown at her side. “Frankly, that’s a horrible indictment on our failings as adults.”
As she did earlier in the week after the Millennium Park shooting, the mayor demanded that parents and guardians be “held accountable” for young people who are “clearly lost.”
“Parents, you’ve got to know where your kids are,” she said. “This is your responsibility, first and foremost. We’re going to do our part. But parents, guardians and caring adults in these children’s lives — they must absolutely step up. We will never solve this problem without that first line of defense. We won’t.”
She did not directly respond to Reilly’s tweet either, but like Brown, she insisted CPD strategies are not failing and actually helped make an arrest within minutes of the mass shooting.
“There were some roving posts and the officers were very close last night, which is how they were able to apprehend the shooter so quickly,” the mayor said. “But we’ve got to have a fixed post at that corner — Chicago and State — and we’ve got to have a fixed post inside that CTA Red Line ... I want these young people, if they’re coming downtown, I want them to be safe.”
Brown said one of the “roving posts” of officers was responding to the fight at McDonald’s when shots rang out around 10:40 p.m.
“Our officers waded into the crowd,” Brown said, then chased the gunman onto the Red Line subway platform and arrested him along with someone who tried to help him escape.
A gun was recovered, police said.
A third suspect being chased into the subway ended up on the tracks and suffered burns when she came into contact with the electrified third rail. She was stabilized at Stroger Hospital.
Charges against the three were still pending as Brown spoke.
The superintendent said the attack was recorded by a police surveillance camera. Two groups are arguing when someone can be seen handing the shooter a gun, Brown said.
Five people were taken by ambulances to hospitals:
• A male with a gunshot wound to the chest, pronounced dead at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He was identified by the Cook County medical examiner’s office as Antonio Wade, 30.
• A 31-year-old man, pronounced dead at Stroger Hospital. He was identified by the medical examiner’s office as Anthony Allen.
• A 17-year-old boy, taken to Stroger with multiple gunshot wounds.
• A 19-year-old man taken to Northwestern in critical condition with a gunshot wound to his chest.
• A 46-year-old woman shot in the leg and taken to Illinois Masonic Medical Center, where she was stabilized.
Later, four men also hurt in the shooting showed up at Northwestern Memorial Hospital: a 31-year-old shot in the hand; a 21-year-old shot in the arm; a 30-year-old with two graze wounds; and a 29-year-old with one graze wound, police said. All were in good condition.
Police had initially said a total of 10 people were shot, but later changed that to 9.
Witnesses said the shooting stemmed from a fight outside the McDonald’s, and the chaotic scene quickly spilled into the nearby CTA Red Line station as police chased the suspects, stopping at least one train and evacuating passengers.
“When the fight first started, we were right next to them,” said Deonna Jackson, 18. “We had to run because I didn’t want anyone to swing on me. ... We were literally right there.”
She added: “The person that they jumped on, we were talking to the people he was with, which turned out to be some girls. ... We get to 7-Eleven, we turn around and they just get to shooting, to shooting like crazy.”
Tensions erupted among the crowd of onlookers, some yelling as officers blocked off the streets around the McDonald’s. Some in the crowd began fighting with each other and officers quickly moved in to break them up.
One person asked an officer why it had to be this way. “It doesn’t have to be,” the officer responded.
As the sun rose Friday, two people who said they knew one of the victims at Northwestern talked near a car where a woman, appearing distraught, spoke to someone on the phone.
“There’s nothing you can do or say to help us right now,” one of them said. Getting information from police and hospitals was difficult, he said: “These victims have mothers.”
About an hour later, the woman was seen leaving the hospital in tears. Three others sobbed and hugged each other near the hospital’s entrance.
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Back at the shooting scene, a few blocks from the hospital, morning commuters walked through blood, broken glass and other debris from the attack that remained on the sidewalks around the restaurant and subway stop.
“This is an ongoing crime scene that needs to be processed for evidence,” Brown said.
A reporter noted that commuters were navigating puddles of blood in an area that was not cordoned off by crime scene tape. “I stand by my response,” Brown said.
Later in the morning, the city’s Department of Buildings posted an “off limits” sign at the McDonald’s because of “dangerous and hazardous electrical conditions.” The statement did not elaborate.
The closure came despite comments at a morning news conference by Kenneth J. Meyer, head of the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, who said he didn’t want to overreact and yank the business license for the McDonald’s because it is open 24 hours a day and provides a food option for many nearby hospital employees working overnight shifts.
Lightfoot said inspectors found some “pretty serious electrical issues that need to be fixed” before the place can reopen.