CHICAGO — Hundreds of people swept through the Magnificent Mile and other parts of downtown Chicago early Monday, smashing windows, looting stores and confronting police after officers shot a suspect in the Englewood neighborhood hours earlier.
The mayhem marked the second time since late May that the city’s upscale shopping district has been targeted by looters amid unrest, reigniting the debate over policing as city leaders continued to point fingers and downtown again was shut down overnight heading to Tuesday.
As businesses owners boarded up shops and braced for the possibility of additional looting, some cautioned against simplifying the situation or blaming any single issue.
“It’s not just people looting,” said Patsy Mullins, whose Gold Coast store, “Accessorize,” was completely emptied. “Let’s dig to the root of the problem, let’s not look at the surface. … We need to get to the bottom of this otherwise, well, this problem will never be solved and it will continue again and again.”
City officials said the seeds for the crime spree were sown on social media Sunday afternoon after officers said they shot and wounded a 20-year-old man they said fired shots at them while being chased.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday decried “a false rumor on social media” that police officers killed a 15-year-old boy. That led residents to clash with police officers in Englewood and prompted calls to head toward downtown.
The looting began around midnight, with people streaming in and out of high-end stores. Some could be seen throwing merchandise into a rental truck and other large vehicles before driving away.
“This was not an organized protest,” Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown said. “Rather this was an incident of pure criminality. This was an act of violence against our police officers and against our city.”
Black Lives Matter Chicago, which protested outside a near South Side police precinct Monday night, blasted Lightfoot for accepting the police version of events and not doing more to institute reforms. The organization suggested the man was right to flee authorities, given the department’s history of racism and abusive tactics.
“In a predictable and unfortunate move, she did not take this time to criticize her officers for shooting yet another Black man,” the organization’s statement read. “Lightfoot instead spent her time attacking ‘looters.’ The mayor clearly has not learned anything since May, and she would be wise to understand that the people will keep rising up until the CPD is abolished and our Black communities are fully invested in.”
More than 100 people have been arrested so far, according to Chicago police. At least three appeared in bond court Monday, including a 25-year-old Joliet man who police say threw a brick at them while trying to break into the Burberry store on North Michigan Avenue.
Thirteen officers were injured during the mayhem, authorities said. A civilian and private security guard were shot and wounded.
In the wake of the unrest, shattered glass, broken mannequins, toiletries and shoe boxes littered the city’s toniest streets. Many store owners worried how they would survive the latest turmoil amid the pandemic and with insurance claims still unpaid from the previous looting spree.
“I just don’t know what the next move is going to be,” said Mullins, the accessory store owner. “I’m out of work. They’ve destroyed everything, they’ve taken all the merchandise that I have to sell. This requires an investment of money to rebuild and replenish.”
It took police officers roughly four hours to get downtown under control, leading to a political blame game and calls for the Illinois National Guard to once again help quell unrest in the country’s third-largest city.
Downtown Alderman Brian Hopkins, who said he was on Michigan Avenue from midnight to 4 a.m., described a scene in which officers were overwhelmed by looters and apparently did not have much of a plan for restoring order. He criticized Lightfoot for failing to develop an effective strategy following recent looting incidents in May and June.
“The real question today is, where was the strategy? What was the decision making at the highest levels?” said Hopkins, 2nd. “That means the police superintendent and the mayor, who’s a very hands-on mayor when it comes to these kinds of decisions.”
The Black Lives Matter movement released a statement suggesting Lightfoot should not be surprised by the Magnificent Mile being targeted, given Chicago politicians have long valued protecting the high-rent area while poorer neighborhoods have suffered from disinvestment and neglect.
“Over the past few months, too many people — disproportionately Black and brown — have lost their jobs, lost their income, lost their homes, and lost their lives as the city has done nothing and the Chicago elite have profited,” the organization’s statement read. “When protesters attack high-end retail stores that are owned by the wealthy and service the wealthy, that is not ‘our’ city and has never been meant for us.”
The violent stretch began Sunday afternoon, when the Police Department’s newly created Community Safety Team responded to a call about a man with a gun in the Englewood neighborhood, authorities said. Officers found a man walking eastbound on 57th Street and Racine Avenue matching the physical description and attempted to stop him, police said.
The man, later identified as 20-year-old Latrell Allen of Chicago, fled, leading to a foot chase by officers. Authorities said Allen shot at the officers during the chase and two officers returned fire.
Allen, who was taken to University of Chicago Medical Center, has been charged with two counts of attempted murder and unlawful use of a weapon, authorities said.
Outside of Allen’s Aberdeen Street home, his mother, Latricsa, received a rundown from a neighbor of the prior day’s events that ended with her son shot five times.
The mother’s voice raised as neighbor Tenisha Caldwell cast doubt on much of the police version of events. Caldwell said she watched from her front porch as an officer fired gunshots at the fleeing man. She also told Latricsa Allen that her son tried to give up before shots were fired.
Allen expressed relief that her eldest son was expected to survive his five bullet wounds, each bullet having missed a vital organ.
“He said ‘Mama, I’m alright,’” she recounted. “He said ‘Mama I love you.’ I said ‘I love you, too.’ He said ‘Mama, they shot me. They shot me five times.’”
Allen said her son denied having a gun, though police posted a photo of a gun they said they found at the scene.
The Community Safety Team officers were not wearing body cameras, and disciplinary investigators said they did not yet have any video showing the shooting. When pressed by Tribune to explain the lack of video, an agency spokesman said those officers don’t wear cameras despite the team’s stated mission of intervening in Chicago’s most violent areas.
The Civilian Office Police Accountability, the city agency that investigates officer-involved shootings, said surveillance cameras showed “the pursuit of a man matching the description of the person (believed) to be in possession of a firearm.” Those recordings were not released. COPA also issued a public plea Monday for anyone with video or information about the shooting to come forward.
The lack of immediate, independent corroboration drew skepticism from several community groups, including Black Lives Matter Chicago.
More than an hour after the Sunday shooting, police and witnesses said a crowd of about 30 people faced off against officers holding a police line near 56th and Aberdeen. Police said a man among the crowd stoked the group’s anger by passing along misinformation, including that police shot a teenage boy. During a scuffle, one officer was hit with pepper spray and a second officer suffered a minor shoulder injury.
A large number of officers cordoned off streets in nearly every direction until the mood of the crowd cooled off. But by that time, Brown said, messages began appearing on social media encouraging people to head downtown.
The officers had stopped several people on Lake Street near Michigan Avenue when shots were fired from a passing car around 4:30 a.m., nearly five hours into the widespread vandalism, police spokesman Tom Ahern said. No officers were shot but a squad car was hit, he said. It was not known if anyone in the gunman’s car was shot.
Shortly after midnight, the looting began as people darted through broken store windows and doors along Michigan Avenue carrying shopping bags full of merchandise. Cars dropped off more people as the crowd grew.
One woman with shopping bags in her hands fell on the sidewalk as an officer was chasing her. Another woman appeared to have been pepper-sprayed. A rock was thrown at a squad car.
The scene was reminiscent of the looting that occurred more than two months ago amid the response to the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. On Monday, both Lightfoot and Brown implicitly criticized Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, saying there weren’t consequences for looters earlier this summer.
Lightfoot, who endorsed Foxx for reelection, became angry when asked follow-up questions about Foxx’s handling of cases and told a reporter not to bait her.
“What we’re saying is, as a result of what happened last night, there have to be consequences,” Lightfoot said. “We’ve got teams of people that are aggressively out there identifying the people responsible, looking at the plates, and we’re going to bring them to justice.
“But when we do make those arrests, our expectation is that this is going to be treated with the level of seriousness it should be. Period,” she said. “Don’t try to bait us, mischaracterize, pit one against the other, we’re not playing that. We’re in a serious situation here and we need a serious response. That’s what we’re saying.”
Foxx pushed back with her own news conference a few hours later, insisting the cause of the unrest cannot be conflated with her office’s response to protests earlier this year. She encouraged prosecutors to dismiss misdemeanor charges — and felony charges, in certain cases — related to the protests, but her office approved charges for the vast majority of felony arrests brought by the Chicago Police Department, she said.
Those cases are making their way through the courts, slowed by both the pandemic and typical pace of the Cook County justice system.
In denouncing the looting and promising to be tough on those responsible, Foxx said the situation also must be viewed amid the backdrop of a global health crisis, record unemployment and nationwide protests against systemic racism.
“The reality is that as we seek to figure out what is happening in a truly unprecedented summer, it requires us to ask tough questions, to deep deliberations and to put all hands on deck,” Foxx said. “All hands on deck means rather than pointing fingers, work together.”
The idea that a lax criminal justice system alone paved the way for the looting oversimplifies the situation, said David Stovall, a professor of African American Studies and Criminology, Law & Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
If the Sunday police shooting did touch off the reaction, then the decades of a strained relationship between police and the community has to be considered too.
Stovall said those who engaged in the looting are potentially reacting to that history and demonstrating their lack of trust in the law enforcement. It’s not surprising that they questioned those official facts and then decided to “strike back,” he said.
“If we’re going to get hit, then we are going to strike back at the spaces that hurt you the most,” Stovall said, describing the mindset.
The looting seemed to be centered in Streeterville and North Michigan Avenue, but some was reported on State Street in the Loop and on the Near North Side. Police appeared to be getting things under control by 4 a.m., though some vandalism continued into the daylight hours.
The CTA suspended train and bus service into downtown during the morning rush, while Illinois State Police blocked off ramps from expressways. Bridges across the Chicago River were raised, except for the one on LaSalle Street for emergency vehicles. City officials said they will restrict access to the downtown from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. for time being.
Illinois House Republican leader Jim Durkin called for the National Guard to be brought in. The Guard was used to help enforce street closures during looting in early June, marking the first time in more than a half century that a Chicago mayor had asked for the Guard’s help in quelling unrest.
“Once again, Illinois government has failed to protect its residents and businesses,” said Durkin, a Western Springs legislator. “It is time to bring in the National Guard and accept any and all federal assistance to stop the chaos that is destroying our state. No more excuses. No more failures.”
The Illinois National Guard has not received any requests for support at this time.
Lightfoot, who has fought President Donald Trump’s insistence that federal troops are the best way to restore order in troubled American cities, said she will not seek military assistance.
“No, we do not need federal troops in Chicago, period, full stop,” Lightfoot said. “I’m sure the president will have his way with this incident but I’m calling upon him to do the things that we do need (such as gun control).”
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