Everyone is talking about the gobsmacking resolution of the Jussie Smollett case. And to some extent dunking on Chicago and it’s political machine. The Chicago Police Department seems infuriated and the Mayor also appears incensed. With all the noise, this one sort of slipped by.
According to the Chicago Tribune this happened on St. Patrick’s Day on Chicago’s West side:
According to authorities, the two tactical officers were making the drug arrest on Sunday afternoon in the West 4700 block of Gladys Avenue in West Garfield Park.
Police who had viewed the body camera footage told me one officer dealt with the suspect and another stood a few feet away, watching a bystander who was making threats.
Then, someone reached into the squad car and took seized drugs. The officer standing a few feet away ran to chase the drug thief, and the mob began pressing and threatening the other officer with the suspect. A shot was fired a block away.
A police radio recording of the incident shared with me lays it out.
“Ten people surrounded me indicating they had firearms, then one person away from me … holding his waist … indicating he’d use the firearm against me.”
These officers were not rookies or on beat patrol. They were TAC officers. A special unit in each of the 25 precincts, these officers are focused on drug crime and gang violence. They also provide rapid response to support initial investigations. This occurred in broad daylight around 2:10 PM.
According to a map of gun violence in the city, most of it is concentrated on the South and West sides of the city. Residents on the West side actually packed into a City Council meeting last year to plead for stronger anti-loitering laws. A quote from one resident says it all:
Kimberly Muhammad said she’s afraid to stand in the bus shelter near her West Garfield Park home because it’s being used as a “trading site” for illegal drugs. Nor can she board the Blue Line train without seeing the “same people” day and night selling drugs.
“It is literally an open market for illegal activity. People drive up and get curbside service. I’m not telling you what I heard. I’m telling you what I witness daily,” Muhammad said as the crowd cheered.
Within the last 12 months, Muhammad said nine people have been shot “on or within two blocks” of her home. Four of them were killed. Coming home to “red and yellow crime scene tape” is like “living in a war zone,” she said.
Now the soldiers in this war zone are being prevented from doing their job with threats of violence. The officers acted out of an abundance of caution as distrust of law enforcement in the city has increased in the wake of the Laquan McDonald case. Yet officers are the only force trying to keep drugs and violent crime at bay for the law abiding citizens stuck in the vortex.
The department is standing behind the officer’s decision to deescalate the situation. But an officer letting a suspect go under circumstances like this was a first for Tribune reporter John Klass. He wrote:
I’ve never heard of that before, of cops so intimidated during an arrest that they’d back off. And I wonder what message that sends, to cops, to the street, and what will come of it.
It’s early spring in Chicago and if historical trends hold true, the violence and gang activity will increase in the heat of summer. To date this year, gun violence is below 2018 levels, but it is still early. And a coversation between Klass and residents of the West side neighborhood where the mob confronted police does not bode well:
But what will happen is that the guys who hang on the corners of 4700 W. Gladys will see more cops, and soon.
Two of them talked to me, as others drove past, slow, to watch.
“Yeah, yeah, I know you,” said a pleasant man who called himself “John” on the corner on Thursday. The other guy looked at my ID, and said his name was “Kass.”
“It wasn’t no ‘mob.’ But this is the hood, man,” said John.
Not this (stuff), I said
“It do now,” he said.
Two men have been arrested in connection with the menacing of the officer. But it could be the prelude to a long, hot summer on Chicago’s city streets if this becomes a feature and not a bug.