Over the past six months, Rachel Spooner said she watched with growing unease as groups of teenagers sneaked into the old Ravenswood Hospital building across the alley from her apartment.
Spooner made a
Early Monday, a 16-year-old boy who apparently had entered the building through a window fell from the second floor onto the concrete ground floor, police said. The boy, later identified as Jose Morales, of the Northwest Side, was taken to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center with severe internal injuries and died at 1 p.m., according to the Cook County medical examiner's office.
The city determined that the building's owner had not properly secured the property, according to a spokeswoman for the Buildings Department.
Records show that Lycee Francais, a French-language elementary and high school, purchased the building in November. The school announced last year that it planned to build a new school on the site by 2015.
Officials with Lycee Francais could not be reached for comment Monday.
"It's troubling on a lot of levels," Spooner said Monday. "The building's condition had been brought to owner's attention on multiple occasions."
The building was cited in December for broken windows and unsecured entrances, according to city records. Vacant for years, it has become a well-known hangout for teenagers, according to police and several neighbors.
About 3:30 a.m. Monday, the 16-year-old later identified as Morales and two other boys, both 17, climbed a fire escape and got into the building, police News Affairs Officer John Mirabelli said. After the boy fell, the two other teens apparently carried him out of the building before calling 911, police said.
The West Ravenswood Neighbors Association has been pushing for demolition of the building, according to a group leader, Erin Kupsco. Kupsco said that after talking to representatives from Lycee Francais recently, she was under the impression that the property had been secured.
"This is something that has been brought up before," Kupsco said of the building's security. "This could have been preventable, and that is so unfortunate."
The city Buildings Department sent an inspector to the building Monday and found that it had not been secured as required by ordinances that cover vacant buildings, according to department spokeswoman Caroline Weisser. Details of the inspection's findings were not immediately available.
Photographs taken during the department's December inspection, posted on the city of Chicago's website, show evidence of previous trespassing, including two photographs of graffiti on interior walls and a ground-floor window partially covered by a board that appears to have fallen or been broken out.
Several parties, including Lycee Francais, were cited at the time with not maintaining the building in a safe condition, leaving the building open without a guard, failing to register the building as vacant, failing to post contact information for an owner on a vacant building, and not repairing or demolishing a vacant building.
In March, the city issued a 15-day notice to the school and other parties to correct the code violations. At the end of the month an inspector again visited the site, this time at the request of the Law Department, which was considering whether to take the owners to court, and found it secure, Weisser said.
Because the owners had worked to correct the problems, the city did not take them to court, said Weisser. She did not have details on what was done to secure the building.
In June, however, two 18-year-olds were arrested on charges of criminal trespassing at the former hospital, according to court records.
When officers arrived, the teens were in the building even though it was boarded up, records show. The teens ignored police and fled through broken windows. Both were caught and now face misdemeanor charges.
Given the building's record of problems, Spooner said more should have been done sooner to secure the site.
"It's not just a matter of vandalism and graffiti and broken windows. People can get hurt," Spooner said. "I wish it hadn't taken an incident like this for everyone to notice."