The Sun-Times’ 75-word news item, published in the sleepy overnight hours of July 27, was easy to miss. An off-duty Cook County Forest Preserves police officer had been attacked that morning in Hyde Park by a man who got out of an SUV and then fled the scene, the paper reported, citing an unspecified police agency.
But CWBChicago has learned that the Forest Preserves police officer was actually an on-duty member of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s personal security team. And the seemingly minor dust-up described by police was really an armed robbery in which the assailant got away with the cop’s gun.
The facts about what really happened that night in July are emerging one day after CWBChicago reported that authorities failed to tell the public that another Forest Preserves officer assigned to Preckwinkle’s personal protection detail opened fire on — and likely shot — a man who allegedly tried to carjack him of his police SUV in front of the board president’s home last week. The incidents involve different officers.
Like the July incident, official accounts of last week’s officer-involved shooting on the 5100 block of South Kimbark are laced with inconsistencies.
Chicago police on Thursday provided CWBChicago with a version of July’s incident that is significantly different from the version provided to the Sun-Times this summer.
“A 33-year-old male victim was walking southbound on [the 5100 block of South] Kimbark Ave when a dark in color SUV pulled up next to him,” a CPD spokesperson wrote in an email. “An unknown offender then exited the vehicle, produced a firearm, and pointed it at the victim. A struggle ensued between the victim and the offender at which time the offender took a firearm from the victim’s waistband. The offender then fled southbound on Kimbark.”
CPD did not identify the victim as a police officer. However, Forest Preserves of Cook County spokesperson Carl Vogel confirmed that he was an on-duty member of Preckwinkle’s executive protection detail.
“President Preckwinkle was informed about the situation the night it occurred,” Vogel said Wednesday. He did not respond to a specific request for information about the July incident or to a request for confirmation that the robber took the officer’s gun.
A CPD report reviewed by CWBChicago said an ambulance responded to Preckwinkle’s home address around 2:40 a.m. on July 27 to treat the officer for a minor hand injury. The report said a robber took the officer’s SIG Sauer P224 handgun.
Chicago police classified the July incident as an armed robbery, according to CPD records, and they included the case in a community alert after detectives linked the robbery to a pattern of similar armed hold-ups in the area.
Some CPD documents reviewed by CWBChicago say the officer involved in last week’s shooting was off-duty at the time of the shooting — much like the officer in July was wrongly said to be off-duty when he was relieved of his firearm by a mugger. Vogel, the Forest Preserves spokesperson, confirmed Wednesday that, like the officer who was robbed in July, the officer who fired shots last week was on duty.
Vogel said the Chicago Police Department is in charge of investigating last week’s officer-involved shooting. A CPD spokesperson confirmed that the department is handling the probe.
But Vogel did not explain why the Forest Preserves did not inform the public about the incident before we brought it to light. Preckwinkle’s office did not respond to requests for information and comment.
Hours after we published our report, Preckwinkle acknowledged to reporters during an unrelated conference call that she knew about the officer-involved shooting because she was home when it happened. The gunfire was so close, it made her windows shake, she said. However, when a reporter asked why officials did not inform the public about the incident earlier, she dodged the question.
Chicago police also continue to investigate whether a 19-year-old man who was found shot in the South Shore neighborhood shortly after the incident outside Preckwinkle’s home was struck by the officer’s gunfire.
CPD officers responded to a “person shot” call at an apartment after one of his relatives called 911 saying he came home with a gunshot wound, according to dispatch records. About three hours later, CPD said in a brief media statement that the man “was walking on the sidewalk when he heard shots and felt pain” on the 6700 block of South Jeffrey Boulevard.
But neither ShotSpotter nor humans reported any gunfire in that area, according to a source. Officers who entered the apartment saw several pairs of shoes manufactured by the same obscure company as a shoe police found lying near Preckwinkle’s house.
The man was treated for a gunshot wound to his knee. Then, Chicago police arrested him on an outstanding warrant because he failed to appear in court on a pending felony charge of possessing a stolen motor vehicle, court records show.
During a bond court hearing two months ago, prosecutors said Chicago police officers arrested the man after he ran from officers who saw him driving a car that was stolen when its owner left it running in the Loop, according to CPD and court documents.
Judge Charles Beach released him on his own recognizance and ordered him to stay in the house from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. with an ankle bracelet. The man never showed up for a single court date, records show.
Prosecutors told Beach the man had no criminal background. However, CWBChicago reviewed CPD documents that show he was charged with misdemeanor theft and possessing a replica firearm last winter after a man said he and another offender robbed him in Hyde Park — about two blocks from Preckwinkle’s home. The status of those charges was not immediately available.
On the day after he was shot last week, Judge Arthur Hill put the man on electronic monitoring and released him on his own recognizance again, records show.
The man is not charged with any crime in connection with the incident outside Preckwinkle’s home.