An ATF agent who was shot in the face in the Back of the Yards early Friday was part of the Chicago Gun Crime Strike Force created last year to combat the city’s gun violence, authorities said.

The agent, shot near 44th and Hermitage about 3:15 a.m., was “ambushed,” said Celinez Gomez, the special agent in charge of the Chicago field division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Gomez said the agent will survive and “make a full recovery.” New to the strike force and the ATF, the agent is recovering at Stroger Hospital.

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said, “Days like today are difficult for us all,” but promised the suspects would be taken into custody.

“We will find you. We will knock on every door,” Johnson said. “Believe me: You will not get away with this.”

Eddie Johnson

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson issued a warning to the person who shot an ATF agent early Friday: “We will find you. We will knock on every door. Believe me: You will not get away with this.” | Sam Charles/Sun-Times

The agent was with several other officers from local, state and federal agencies conducting an investigation of illegal guns when the gunfire erupted, said police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. They were doing surveillance.

The task force was acting on information that a gang in the neighborhood recently obtained a cache of weapons to “get ready for the summer,” a source said.

Rival gangs armed with assault rifles have been shooting back and forth for years in the area. In May 2017, two officers were ambushed with an assault rifle and suffered bullet wounds near 43rd and Ashland. The 17-year-old La Raza gang member fled to Mexico, police say.

Guglielmi said investigators could not rule out that the suspect in Friday’s shooting was part of the same gang that shot those officers.

Minutes after Friday’s shooting, officers checked the department’s ShotSpotter gunshot detection system and learned two rounds were fired from the northeast corner of 44th and Hermitage just north of Davis Square Park.

Officers said they were also going to check a police surveillance camera in the area for possible video, according to a police radio transmission.

Dogs were brought to the scene to search for the shooter, and officers were told to clear any civilians from the park.

The ATF is putting up $25,000 as a reward for information that leads to an arrest in the shooting. The FBI is matching that, and the U.S. Marshals Service is offering $10,000. Anti-violence activist Andrew Holmes is also offering $1,000, authorities said.

Jeff Sallet, the division chief of the FBI’s Chicago field office, said the $61,000 would prove who was loyal to shooter.

“The people who did this will not have a lot of friends,” he said.

“It’s a team fight, it’s not an individual effort,” Sallet added. “We need the community.”

An ATF agent was shot in the head in the 4400 block of Hermitage early Friday morning.

An ATF agent was shot in the head in the 4400 block of South Hermitage early Friday. | Justin Jackson/ Sun-Times

After the agent was shot, at least one Chicago Police officer returned fire, but no one was struck, according to Guglielmi.

Chicago Police have deployed hundreds of officers in a manhunt for the gunman, and the Back of the Yards area is on “lockdown,” authorities said.

The agent shot Friday was the fourth law enforcement officer to be shot in the Back of the Yards in the last year. In addition to the ATF agent and the two officers shot in May 2017, a Chicago Police officer was shot three blocks south on Ashland in June 2017.

Johnson has reallocated specialty teams of the Chicago Police Department to aid in the investigation. Guglielmi said the entire organized-crime division is “dedicated to the mission.”

A reporter told Johnson that several members of the predominantly Hispanic area where the shooting occurred had felt uneasy about the large police presence in the area. Johnson said that “law enforcement can’t wait for [serious crimes] to occur.”

“That’s just the world that we live in now,” he said.

 

Officers investigate a shooting early Friday that wounded an ATF agent in the Back of the Yards neighborhood | Justin Jackson/Sun-Times

Officers investigate a shooting early Friday that wounded an ATF agent in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. | Justin Jackson/Sun-Times