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Charges filed in fatal shooting at ‘Tent City’ homeless encampment in South Loop

George Arroyo | Chicago police

A man has been charged with a fatal shooting Monday afternoon during an argument over a stolen heater at a homeless encampment in the South Loop, according to Cook County prosecutors.

George Arroyo, 57, was ordered held without bail on a charge of first-degree murder during a hearing Wednesday at the Leighton Criminal Court Building.

About 4:45 p.m. Monday, 57-year-old Douglas Robinson was found shot once at a “grassy embankment” near the 1000 block of South Desplaines Street at a homeless encampment known as “Tent City,” according to authorities.

Prosecutors said Arroyo fired the shot during an argument over a heater that Robinson allegedly stole from him and because Arroyo blamed Robinson for the death of Arroyo’s girlfriend a year earlier.

Both men were homeless and had lived at the encampment for the last year, prosecutors said.

Arroyo was taken into custody by Chicago police officers when a witness pointed Arroyo out as the shooter as he walked on Roosevelt Road near the scene of the shooting, prosecutors said. Arroyo was found with a loaded .40-caliber Smith and Wesson handgun in his possession.

Robinson was taken to Stroger Hospital, where he was pronounced dead of a gunshot wound to his abdomen, prosecutors said.

Arroyo had gone to his tent before the shooting and allegedly placed the gun in his pocket with the intention of confronting Robinson over the missing heater. Arroyo first went to Robinson’s tent, but didn’t find him there. He approached Robinson when he saw him walking back to the encampment from across the street, prosecutors said.

Arroyo demanded Robinson return the heater, and when Robinson refused, Arroyo allegedly took the gun from his pocket and pointed it at Robinson, prosecutors said. Robinson tried to slap the gun away from Arroyo’s hand several time before Arroyo allegedly pulled the trigger, according to prosecutors.

Arroyo then ran to a tent where a witness saw he was armed with a black and chrome gun and appeared agitated, prosecutors said. Arroyo then went to a second tent and allegedly admitted to a witness that he had shot Robinson. When the witness expressed disbelief, Arroyo showed him the gun in his waistband and then headed for Roosevelt Road. That witness followed Arroyo and pointed him out to responding officers, prosecutors said.

Arroyo made statements about the shooting to officers at the scene, which were recorded by the officers’ body cameras and made further admissions during a video-recorded interview with detectives, prosecutors said.

A court-appointed assistant public defender said Arroyo had attended high school through the ninth grade in Brooklyn, New York, but had lived in Chicago for many years.

Judge Sophia Atcherson ordered Arroyo held without bail and scheduled his next court appearance for March 11.

The Tent City was in the spotlight last month when a polar vortex was bearing down on the city and a real estate developer from Auburn Gresham and others picked up 70 people — some who were sleeping in the “Tent City” at Roosevelt Road and Desplaines Street — and put them up in a hotel for a few days.

Contributing: Nader Issa