More than 100 arrested, 13 officers hurt, stores ransacked amid Chicago unrest
Hundreds of people descended on downtown Chicago early Monday following a police shooting on the city’s South Side, with vandals smashing the windows of dozens of businesses and making off with merchandise, cash machines and anything else they could carry, police said.
Police Supt. David Brown told reporters that the Sunday afternoon shooting of the man who had opened fire on officers apparently prompted a social media post that urged people to form a car caravan and converge on the business and shopping district.
Some 400 additional officers were dispatched to the area after the department spotted the post. Over several hours, police made more than 100 arrests and 13 officers were injured, including one who was struck in the head with a bottle, Brown said.
Brown dismissed any suggestion that the chaos was part of an organized protest of the shooting, calling it “pure criminality” that included occupants of a vehicle opening fire on police who were arresting a man they spotted carrying a cash register.
No officers were wounded by gunfire, but a security guard and a civilian were hospitalized in critical condition after being shot, and five guns were recovered, he said.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot agreed that the melee had nothing to do with a protest. “This was straight-up felony criminal conduct,” she said. “This was an assault on our city.”
Chicago has seen a surge in gun violence that resulted in more homicides in July than any month in decades. President Trump, who has repeatedly criticized the city’s handling of the violence, recently ordered more federal agents to Chicago to take part in what Atty. Gen. William Barr called “classic crime fighting.
The nation’s third-largest city is on edge amid a surge in gun violence and protests sparked by the death of George Floyd. And now Trump has ordered federal agents into the mix.
Further ratcheting up the tensions in the city was a video circulating on Facebook that falsely claimed that Chicago police had shot and killed a 15-year-old boy. Posted at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, the video shows upset residents confronting officers near the scene where police shot and wounded an adult suspect they said had fired at them that day. By Monday morning, the footage had been watched nearly 100,000 times.
Witnesses to the unrest described a scene that bore a striking resemblance to the unrest that unfolded when protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis devolved into chaos. Brown suggested that the lenient treatment of people arrested then played a role in what happened Monday.
“Not many of those cases were prosecuted to the full extent,” he said. “These looters, these thieves, these criminals being emboldened by [the lack of] consequences ... emboldened to do more.”
At the same news conference, Lightfoot addressed those who ransacked stores directly, telling them that police had collected a lot of surveillance video and other evidence that will be used to arrest and prosecute as many as possible.
“We saw you, and we will come after you,” she warned.
Cook County State’s Atty. Kim Foxx disputed any suggestion that her office had shied away from prosecuting people who were arrested for ransacking businesses weeks ago. She said none of those cases had been dropped.
“That is simply not true,” she said. “Those cases are coming to court now.”
Violent clashes this week between protesters and police in Portland, Ore., have ratcheted up tensions in the city again.
Videos of the vandalism showed huge crowds of people smashing their way into businesses and streaming out of broken windows and doors with clothes and other merchandise. They loaded up vehicles, some moving slowly and deliberately, apparently not worried about being caught by police or being recorded by scores of cellphone cameras.
Vehicles drove away slowly, some leaving behind boxes of rocks that they had apparently brought to shatter the windows. Cash register drawers and clothes hangers were strewn about the streets, along with automatic teller machines that had been ripped from walls or pulled from inside businesses.
Stores miles from downtown were also ransacked, their parking lots littered with glass and boxes that once contained TVs and other electronics.
“This was obviously very orchestrated,” the Rev. Michael Pfleger, a prominent Roman Catholic priest and activist on the city’s South Side, told Chicago television station WBBM.
The havoc left some downtown residents rattled.
“I’ve lived here for 20 years, and it’s getting scary, because you can’t walk out now,” said Alan Freeman, who lives in the downtown area. “You don’t know if they’re going to start with the people walking on the streets, instead of the stores.”
Train and bus service into downtown was temporarily suspended, and bridges over the Chicago River were lifted, preventing travel to and from the downtown area. Some highway ramps were also closed. Although those restrictions were eased later in the day, they were to be reimposed beginning Monday evening until Tuesday morning.
Brown said the police department would maintain a huge presence in the downtown area indefinitely, telling reporters that all days off had been canceled until further notice.
On the South Side, police responded about 2:30 p.m. Sunday to a call about a person with a gun in the Englewood neighborhood and tried to confront someone matching his description in an alley. He fled from officers on foot and shot at officers, police said.
Officers returned fire, wounding the man, who was taken to a hospital for treatment. He was expected to recover. Three officers also were taken to a hospital for observation, the statement said.
Brown later said the 20-year-old man had a criminal history, including arrests for domestic battery and child endangerment. A gun was recovered at the scene, he said.
More than an hour after the shooting, police and witnesses said a crowd faced off with officers after someone reportedly told people that police had shot and wounded a child. That crowd eventually dispersed.
But police later came across the social media post about a caravan of cars “being prompted to go to our downtown to loot,” Brown said. “Within 15 minutes, we respond and almost immediately the caravan is in our downtown area.”
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