CHICAGO — Hundreds of people descended on downtown Chicago early Monday after 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 Superintendent 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.
About 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.”
A Facebook video 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 looters 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 Attorney 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.”
Videos of the vandalism showed huge crowds of people smashing their way into businesses and streaming out of the broken windows and doors with clothes and other merchandise.
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 this 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.
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.
Information for this article was contributed by Teresa Crawford of The Associated Press.