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Uptown alderman blasts Starbucks after fatal shooting

Uptown Starbucks

Police investigate a shooting that killed a man and wounded two other people, including a 12-year-old boy, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017 at a Starbucks in the Uptown neighborhood. | Nader Issa/Sun-Times

Ald. James Cappleman (46th) blasted an Uptown neighborhood Starbucks as complicit in drug dealing, less than 24 hours after three people were shot — one fatally — inside the coffee shop.

“I will not tolerate businesses that do not work with the police and my office to maintain safety,” Cappleman said in a statement Friday. “We have had issues for years with illegal activity at this business, with very little response or help from Starbucks’ management to correct the problems.”

Ald. James Cappleman | Sun-Times file photo

Sauvignon Watkins, a 28-year-old father of two from the Avalon Park neighborhood on the South Side, was killed in the shooting Thursday evening in the Starbucks at 4753 N. Broadway, according to Chicago Police and the Cook County medical examiner’s office. Police said a gun and narcotics were found on Watkins. No one has been arrested in the shooting.

The incident started with a drug deal near Broadway and Wilson, according to Town Hall District Cmdr. Marc Buslik. Police said Watkins and a 24-year-old man who was also wounded were involved in the transaction.

Buslik said the 12-year-old and 24-year-old were waiting for Watkins inside the Starbucks when the shooting began. But police later clarified that boy was “not connected to the incident.”

Just after 8 p.m., a person wearing a ski mask chased Watkins into the coffee shop and opened fired, according to police and the medical examiner’s office.

Cappleman said he would be contacting the city’s Office of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection “to correct the safety issues at Starbucks for the safety of residents in the ward” and ask Buslik to increase police patrols in the area.

A spokesman for Starbucks said Friday that the coffee shop chain was “disappointed by the alderman’s comments,” which do not align with the CPD’s version of events.

“As it has been reported by local law enforcement, our store was not central to the crime that took place,” Starbucks spokesman Reggie Borges said. “For him to suggest that that was the case, it was not accurate based on what we’ve seen from local law enforcement.”

Starbucks at Broadway and Lawrence | Google Maps

Borges added that the Uptown store has added additional exterior security cameras in recent years and has requested an additional lock be placed on the rear entrance to the Bridgeview Bank Building, though he could not speak to any enhanced security requests made by Cappleman.

Cappleman told the Chicago Sun-Times that, since 2013, he has hosted regular meetings with a group of local businesses to discuss ways to improve public safety in Uptown.

“Starbucks has rarely come to those meetings,” Cappleman said.

The alderman said that, as police have targeted drug activity at the intersection of Lawrence and Sheridan, “We noticed that the drug dealers went to the path of least resistance” and “started drifting over to Starbucks.”

“That’s the issue: When you address gang and drug activity, when you get them out of one area, they go someplace else.”

Cappleman said he arranged a meeting between the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, the CPD and Starbucks management in September 2015 “to discuss the drug dealing and prostitution that was occurring inside their bathroom.”

The Starbucks was closed Friday, according to a statement on its website.

“The store will be closed tomorrow morning (Friday) as we focus on our local store partners, ensuring they have the support they need. We will continue to support law enforcement in their investigation,” the statement said.

Factions of three gangs — the Black P Stones, Vice Lords and Gangster Disciples — all lay claim to different parts of Uptown.

Violence and drug activity within the immediate area of the Starbucks — Beat 1914, which covers the area from Lawrence to Montrose, Clark to Lake Michigan — has been relatively common in the area for years.

Since the start of 2013, city data show, there have been 11 murders and 29 more nonfatal shootings in the area, not including Thursday night’s shooting.

In that same time frame, there have been nearly 700 arrests for various narcotics offenses, data show.