Weekend shootings along the downtown Riverwalk and at 31st Street beach should not discourage summer tourists and everyday Chicagoans from flocking to two of the city’s most enduring attractions, Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said Monday.
At the beach, two 16-year-old boys were critically wounded in a shooting about 7 p.m. Sunday. On the Riverwalk, about 2 a.m. Sunday, two men, ages 28 and 30, were involved in an argument near Wacker and Dearborn when shots rang out.
The Riverwalk incident occurred when the walkway was officially closed to the public, Johnson noted.
“They were somewhere where they weren’t supposed to be. But as a result of this, we’re meeting with our business partners in the Riverwalk area just to make sure the security plan is what it should be,” the superintendent told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Johnson on Monday blamed both incidents on “petty disputes settled with guns.”
“These were all young folks. One was a dispute about a girl. The other was a dispute about coolers on the beach,” Johnson told the Sun-Times. Those disputes don’t concern the public at large, he added, and police were “close” to making arrests.
Johnson emphasized that the Riverwalk shooting occurred “after the public is barred from being over there.” Chicago Police “patrol that area religiously” between 6 p.m. and midnight, then do “random patrols” after midnight, he said.
“Those were not random incidents . . . they were targeted at groups of people that knew each other. . . . These weren’t street robberies or things of that nature,” Johnson said.
Overall, on a weekend when temperatures rose into the 90s, six men were killed and at least 37 other people were wounded in shootings across Chicago between Friday evening and Monday morning.
The beach and Riverwalk shootings drew the most attention.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel completed the downtown Riverwalk with help from a $99 million federal construction loan. If random shootings prompt Chicagoans and tourists to stay away from the Riverwalk, the mayor could have a tough time generating the concession revenue he needs to retire that loan.
The city’s Department of Fleet and Facilities Management, which manages the Riverwalk, uses unarmed security guards, patrolling on foot, to enforce an 11 p.m. curfew.
“That’s why we’re gonna meet with the business community down there — to evaluate it and see what they can pitch in because security is everybody’s responsibility,” Johnson said. “After hours, we’re obviously not going to be there every minute. But we’ll come up with a plan so that, between CPD and business owners, we have it more secure down there.”
The 31st Street shooting occurred in broad daylight on a crowded beach filled with families seeking refuge from the blistering summer heat.
But Johnson nevertheless urged South Siders not to be afraid of taking their children to the beach.
“It’s still between two groups of folks that knew each other. . . . But again, it was a petty dispute that they settled with a gun,” he said.
Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi insisted there is nothing to fear.
“We have district [officers] there until midnight and then, every hour, or hour and a half, officers will walk through there. Those folks got in in-between that gap. But the onus of accountability is on the individuals. Clearly, the law states that you can’t be there at that time,” he said.