Lightfoot says residents, businesses are justifiably ‘fearful’ after latest looting
Lightfoot acknowledges residents, businesses justifiably worried after second round of looting
Mayor Lori Lightfoot acknowledged Tuesday that Chicago residents and businesses are justifiably “fearful” after a second round of looting she likened to “organized crime” and said she’s been “nonstop on the phone” to offer “concrete solutions” that reassure them.
Even before the second round of looting that ravaged giant swaths of downtown, River North and Lincoln Park, Lightfoot was simultaneously grappling with violent crime, civil unrest and a coronavirus pandemic that has caused unprecedented hardship and blown a $700 million hole in her 2020 budget.
When a police shooting in Englewood gave organized teams of looters the excuse to replay Chicago’s nightmare, it raised legitimate questions about whether businesses that survived the stay-at-home shutdown and sustained heavy losses during Round 1 of the looting would have the stomach to rebuild yet again.
Lightfoot understands their fears about being protected if and when it happens again. That’s why she’s been burning the phone and Zoom lines reassuring them that, as she put it, “We are going to see our way through this challenging confluence of events.”
The way to do that, the mayor said, is to build the strongest possible cases against the looters and offer “concrete solutions” to protect residents and business owners who are concerned about the city’s ability to protect them if and when it happens again, as Black Lives Matter has warned that it will.
“People are fearful. They are afraid. And it’s up to us as leaders to offer concrete solutions and a path forward. And that’s what we’re gonna continue to do,” the mayor said.
Lightfoot says she’s spent much of the last two days “literally nonstop” on the phone and on Zoom conferences with residents, business owners and CEOs “with an interest in the downtown area because they live there, they work there or they shop there.”
Access to downtown was restricted again Tuesday night. Starting at 9 p.m., the city planned to raise bridges, shut down parts of Lake Shore Drive and close expressway ramps.
With such measures in place for the “foreseeable future,” she’s also been on the phone reassuring neighborhood businesses that city trucks would be used to protect their local commercial corridors.
“I want to make sure that, one, I’m listening and I’m hearing the raw emotions of people who are afraid and want concrete solutions and that I’m reaching out and offering very specific, concrete solutions,” she said.
“Part of the reason that I’ve emphasized that we are gonna not spare any expense to bring those who are responsible for looting ... to justice is because I understand that people were just starting to recover. They were just starting to get their footing.”
Lightfoot said this has been a “helluva year” for small-business owners. Many are neighborhood businesses hiring local residents and have been in the same family for generations.
“We can’t allow criminals to tarnish their legacy, their businesses, but more importantly their hope. I’m not gonna let that happen. And we are going hard at the people who are responsible,” she said.
“It’s not opportunistic and spontaneous when you already have UHaul vans and cargo vans and you come equipped with precision tools to break into stores, to break into safes, to haul off cash registers and when you are coming with arms to fight off the police . ... While there absolutely was a layer of opportunistic individuals, this was also organized crime. And we are going to break these crews and these rings and we are gonna bring them to justice. That is what we owe the residents of this city. Period.”
On a conference call with City Hall reporters, Lightfoot and Police
Supt. David Brown acknowledged the police shooting in Englewood that helped trigger the downtown looting would have been more easily justified by police bodycam video.
The lack of video allowed erroneous rumors to spread on social media that Chicago police had shot an unarmed 15-year-old. The man who was shot was 20-year-old Latrell Allen. He has been charged with two counts of attempted murder for shooting at officers before they shot him.
Brown told Lightfoot about two weeks ago “there was an issue with the number of body cameras. And that does directly stem from the terms of the [police] contract ... previously negotiated by the prior [Emanuel] administration which, as we now know, is highly, highly problematic and we are aggressively working to renegotiate,” the mayor said.
“We can’t have people who are out on the street who are interfacing with the public on a regular basis that don’t have body cameras,” Lightfoot said, adding that Brown has “initiated efforts now to make sure that we have body cameras in every team that’s out there engaging with members of the public.”
Brown said he’s “scrubbing the inventory of bodycams so that we can redistribute a contingent of bodycams to some of these teams that were created from officers who were at one time in plainclothes and now are in the neighborhoods patrolling them.”
Lightfoot and Brown have both accused the state’s attorney’s office of going easy on looters during Round 1.
On Tuesday, the mayor said there is “natural tension” between prosecutors and police, but she hopes to build a “healthy” working relationship. That’s even though the mayor claimed there has been an “evolution” in the state’s attorney’s standards for prosecuting cases as a felony and that the Chicago Police Department is trying to “adapt to those standards.”
The man who fired at Chicago police before he was shot and injured by the officers in Englewood on Sunday — touching off a night of theft and property destruction downtown — was armed with a weapon at a park where there were children, Cook County prosecutors said.
Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy Tuesday praised officers for arriving so quickly after a 911 caller reported Latrell Allen was fighting and refusing to leave the scene. If they had not responded sooner, “We could be talking about another dead child shot in our city,” he said.
Allen’s family denied he had a gun, and the officers weren’t wearing body cameras, but Murphy said the initial police pursuit of the 20-year-old was recorded by police POD cameras.
“He was willing to shoot multiple times at armed law enforcement as they were chasing him; he certainly poses a danger and wouldn’t think twice about shooting up a park or anybody else for that matter,” the prosecutor said.
Assistant Public Defender Scott Finger questioned why the officers were not wearing body cameras, stressing such footage would have been valuable in backing up their account of the shooting.
“In 2020, [Chicago police] can’t get cameras on these officers?” Finger said. “I think there’s an expectation that every officer have a camera these days. The department is under a consent decree after the [U.S. Department of Justice] found a pattern of excessive force and civil rights violations. And they’re out there without cameras?”
Police also did not test Allen’s hands for gunshot residue, Finger said, telling Judge Susana Ortiz that she could draw her own “inferences” as to why.
However, Ortiz said she found the allegations against Allen particularly dangerous.
Allen, who was not in court Tuesday because he was recovering at the University of Chicago Medical Center from gunshot wounds to his cheek and abdomen, was ordered held on $1 million bail for attempted first-degree murder of a police officer and unlawful use of a weapon.
After Allen was wounded, coordinated looting took place downtown and in the Near North Side overnight. “Tempers flared, fueled by misinformation” about an “unarmed juvenile” being shot by police, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Police Supt. David Brown said.
Prosecutors said four officers, part of a recently created community policing unit, were in an unmarked car but in full uniform when they arrived at Moran Park near 57th Street and Racine Avenue on Sunday afternoon responding to a call of a person with a gun.
The police SUV’s emergency lights were activated when the officers pulled up, causing Allen to run, and three of the officers gave chase on foot, followed by the fourth officer, Murphy said.
Allen pulled out a gun before running into the east alley in the 5600 block of Aberdeen Street, where he turned and fired at two of the pursuing officers, Murphy said.
The officers could see the bullets hit the ground between them and returned fire, Murphy said.
Allen fell, but then got up and continued running into a backyard. He ended up in a nearby home, and a relative called 911 to report he had been shot.
Officers followed a blood trail into the home and down the basement, where they called out to Allen, prosecutors said. He eventually came up the stairs and was taken into custody.
A 9mm handgun and eight shell casings were found in the alley near where police allege Allen fired the shots. Additional 9mm shell casings from the officers’ guns were also recovered but had a distinctly different appearance, prosecutors said.
Illinois State Police had not finished testing of the recovered gun for DNA nor completed ballistics examinations Tuesday.
Social media posts show Allen “flashing gang signs” and holding a variety of weapons, including a handgun that looks “exactly” like the one recovered in the alley, Murphy said.
Allen, who pleaded guilty to a felony burglary case last year, was also ordered held without bail Tuesday for violating his probation in that case.
Allen also faces a pending misdemeanor reckless conduct and child endangerment charges, prosecutors said.
Allen was taken into custody on March 26 after he was allegedly seen holding a young child and running through backyards in an attempt to evade officers who were responding to a report of a person with gun. The caller who made the report said Allen had threatened to shoot his 1-year-old baby on Facebook unless he was given money, Murphy said.
Police stand guard on the Magnificent Mile on Monday morning after looting overnight. In the background, the Michigan Ave. bridge over the Chicago River has been lifted to restrict travel into and out of the Loop.
The Dior store at Rush and Walton streets was among the boutiques looted early Monday.
Police were called near the 5700 block of South Racine Avenue on Sunday after a report of a person with a gun.